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Tonsillectomy In Children


A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove your child's tonsils. Tonsils are 2 large lumps of tissue in the back of your child's throat. Adenoids are small lumps of tissue on top of the throat. Tonsils and adenoids both fight infection. Your child may need his tonsils removed to improve breathing and asthma, and to reduce throat, sinus, and ear infections. His adenoids may be taken out at the same time if they are large or infected.



  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Pain medicine: Your child may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you give him more pain medicine.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is used to help prevent or fight an infection caused by bacteria. Give this to your child as directed.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

What to expect after surgery:

  • Pain and swelling: Your child's face, throat, and neck may be swollen or tender for up to 2 weeks after surgery. His pain may be worse in the morning.
  • Mild fever: Your child may have a low fever while the tonsil areas heal. Give him liquids often to help reduce it.
  • Bleeding: A small amount of bleeding is normal within 24 hours after surgery. Bleeding can also happen 5 to 10 days after surgery when the scabs fall off, or he has an infection. Ask how much bleeding to expect.

Mouth care:

It is normal for your child to have throat pain and bad breath after surgery. Help your child with the following:

  • Gently rinse his mouth as directed to remove blood and mucus.
  • Help him gently brush his teeth. Do not let him gargle or brush his teeth too hard. This can cause bleeding.

Food and drink:

Your child will need a liquid diet or soft food diet for several days after surgery.

  • Give your child plenty of liquids: This will help prevent fluid loss, keep his temperature down, decrease his pain, and speed his healing. Liquids and foods that are cool or cold, such as water, apple or grape juice, popsicles, and gelatin, will help decrease pain and swelling. Do not give him orange juice or grapefruit juice. These may bother your child's throat.
  • Give your child soft foods: Do this once he can drink liquids easily and his stomach is not upset. Examples are applesauce, oatmeal, soft-boiled eggs, macaroni, and ice cream. Once he can eat soft food easily, he may slowly begin to eat solid foods. Do not give him anything spicy, hot, or with sharp edges, such as chips. These can hurt his tonsil areas.
  • Do not give your child hot foods or drinks: Do not give your child hot tea, soup, or any other hot or warm foods or drinks. They can increase his risk for bleeding. Do not give your child milk and dairy foods if he has problems with thick mucus in his throat. This can cause him to cough, which could hurt his surgery areas.

Care for your child after surgery:

  • Let your child rest: Your child will need to rest and limit his activity for 7 to 10 days after surgery or as directed.
  • Use ice on your child's throat: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the ice pack with a towel and place it on your child's throat for 15 to 20 minutes every hour for 2 days.
  • Use a cool humidifier: This will help moisten the air and soothe your child's throat.
  • Gently wash your child's neck: Bathe your child as you normally would, or have him bathe himself with care. His throat and neck may be sore. Ask if you need to use cool water to wash his neck until it heals.
  • Do not smoke around your child: Keep him away from smoky areas. Smoke may cause his throat to bleed.
  • Keep your child away from people with colds, sore throats, or the flu: He may get sick more easily after surgery.

Contact your child's surgeon or primary healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has throat pain or an earache that is worse than expected.
  • Your child has pus or blood draining down his throat.
  • Your child has itchy skin or a rash.
  • You have any questions or concerns about your child's care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child has bright red bleeding from his throat, nose, or mouth, or his bleeding worsens.
  • Your child feels weak, dizzy, or like he will faint when he sits up or stands.
  • Your child has severe throat pain with drooling or voice changes.
  • Your child has a stiff and painful neck.
  • Your child has sudden swelling or pain in his face or neck.
  • Your child has back or chest pain.
  • Your child has trouble breathing or swallowing.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.