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A Guide to Tonsil Surgery and Recovery

an ENT doctor inspecting a child's tonsils

One of the most common procedures that an ENT doctor undertakes is a tonsillectomy. It works to keep people feeling free from the pain of tonsillitis, as when there are no tonsils, there is nowhere for pus pockets and tonsil stones to live and infection to follow. Tonsil surgery is a last resort for tonsillitis, but when inflamed tonsils are becoming a problem, or quinsy and sleep apnea are an issue, tonsil surgery can be what you need to feel better again. 

‚ÄčConditions requiring tonsil surgery

Tonsil surgery is more common in children than it is adults, but when it is performed it’s because of a huge variety of conditions. Some of those include:

  • Recurrent tonsillitis: Tonsillitis in adults include symptoms such as spots on the tonsils, swollen glands and difficulty swallowing. Normally, tonsillitis passes, but when it happens over and over again it can be very hard to manage.
  • Quinsy: Quinsy is an abscess on the tonsils, and it’s usually triggered because of tonsillitis. It causes ear pains, spasms in the jaw and it makes it very hard to swallow properly.
  • Snoring: When the tonsils occlude the throat, snoring is even more likely and can lead to conditions such as:
  • Sleep apnea: A sleep disorder that can occur with blockages to the throat.
  • Tonsil stones: These are balls of bacterial debris that build up in the pits of the tonsils. They make your breath smell bad and they’re uncomfortable to deal with.

What happens after surgery?

As a very effective tonsillitis treatment, tonsil surgery usually allows you to go home after four hours. You won’t be allowed to drive for at least 24 hours after surgery, as you’ll have general anesthetic for the surgery. It’s better to have someone with you who can take you home. You won’t need any antibiotics, but you will have post-operative meds to take home with you.

The best thing that you can do post-op is to rests as much as you can. No going to the gym or any other strenuous activity, as you could burst your stitches in your throat. Once you are speaking and eating normally again, you will be able to return to work. Soreness should last for around a week, and then you’ll be feeling good again after that.

A lot of people choose to stick to soft food for a while after tonsil surgery and it makes sense. Soft foods are clearly the easier option to swallow. However, a lot of this comes from fear of hurting their throat, but the official advice is that you can eat normally after surgery. Pain levels will rise after a few days, but by seven days post-op they should be gone and you should be feeling normal once more. The best thing that you can do is to keep taking your painkillers and eat as normally as possible, and you’ll be able to carry on with life just as before surgery. Your ENT doctor should be able to advise you as to whether you need any additional care.