A Child Tonsillectomy Recovery Day By Day – How to Prepare And What To Expect

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Are you waiting for your child to have a tonsillectomy? This is our account of how to prepare and what to expect from a child tonsillectomy recovery day by day after surgery. Our daughter had her tonsils and adenoids out in September 2018, and here is what happened for us and how recovering from a tonsillectomy went for my daughter.

We had been waiting for our daughter to have a child’s tonsillectomy for 18 months. Here in the UK, we were told that tonsillectomy in children is not normally carried out until around 3 years of age.

If you read my post on my little girl’s sleep apnoea, her tonsils and adenoids were causing us some real worry, and she was having lots of problems healthwise. We had needed to seek immediate medical care on several occasions, the doctor prescribed antibiotics and different pain medicine types and we needed to keep my daughter’s bed on an incline. Every healthcare professional and doctor says that if we need emergency care or if the breathing gets laboured or throat pain gets worse then not to wait several days, but to go to A&E. And we had done this several times. So we were very pleased when we received a call on the Friday after I published that post to say that there was a cancellation and could we come in on the Monday for her adenotonsillectomy?


Child Tonsillectomy Recovery Day By Day – Plus How To Prepare

The hospital emailed through the admission letter as there wasn’t time to it to get to us in the post. It all became very real for me. My anxiety was high about putting Elizabeth through surgery. Though I knew health care such as a child’s tonsillectomy should improve her condition, I never think that surgery should be taken lightly. I was worried. But luckily I was spared some anxiety as was only a weekend to think about it rather than being stressed over it all for weeks.

Packing for the Hospital

We were informed that Elizabeth’s operation would involve an overnight stay in hospital due to her only being 2. We had been told that either Mum or Dad could stay overnight with Elizabeth after the operation. Between us we agreed that it should be me. Andrew was actually meant to be starting back to school again after the summer holidays on the day of surgery, so it made sense that I be the one sleep deprived.

We needed to pack an overnight bag. I do like to pack, but I tend to take everything but the kitchen sink!

For Elizabeth I packed:

  • A favourite toy
  • Some new books to ease the boredom of waiting and for distraction later
  • Booboo and jingly bear – her absolute must have comforters
  • Pyjamas
  • Crisps and some of her favourite foods for after the operation
  • Drinking utensils – but no straws as these can cause bleeding at the operation site
  • Painkillers
  • My iPad with films downloaded to keep her entertained whilst in hospital – 2 favourite films and 2 new films.
  • Spare clothes
  • Towel toiletries and a toothbrush

For myself I packed:

  • Pyjamas
  • a change of clothes
  • a towel and toiletries
  • Phone and iPad chargers
  • my Kindle

I was totally prepared for a sleepless night.  

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In addition to this, we bought some special food items in our weekly shopping for post surgery. We were advised that after surgery a recovering child need to avoid becoming dehydrated. So we bought lots of child drinks so she would drink plenty. Plus, we bought some

  • Jelly
  • Ice cream
  • Freeze pops
  • Soups
  • Eggs, and
  • More of Elizabeth’s favourite foods

We hoped that these things would help to sooth her throat and encourage her to eat even though she was feeling lousy.

Above all, we made sure we had plenty of non prescription pain medicine such as Calpol (Paracetamol) and Ibuprofen painkillers in the house for after surgery. I even made a painkiller schedule.

The Day of the Surgery

The day arrived and I awoke very anxious. My stomach was churning and I felt a little sick. It reminded me of a day when I need to fly (I am a very nervous flyer) or the day that I took my finals at university.

I took her temperature, we had been told that if she had a temperature over 38 Celsius that they couldn’t do surgery. She was fine.

We had been told that as her surgery was in the afternoon that she could have breakfast before 7.30am. Then nothing else to eat until after her operation. We have never had such a quick breakfast, I was worried that she’d not eaten much, she usually makes breakfast last for ages, but I had to clear up today.

Have you ever tried telling a toddler that they aren’t allowed food?! My little girl has a tendency to just go to the cupboards and get food when she wants it. She was asking for cucumber and milk by 9am! Luckily, we had put cupboard locks on all the food doors in the kitchen and even put a lock on the fridge. Twarted, she resigned herself to complaining at me…

She was allowed water until 11am. Then nothing more.

Surreptitiously I packed a coolbag where Elizabeth couldn’t find it containing food for us, food for Elizabeth for afterwards, milk for after surgery and her favourite hulk cup/bottle.

We arrived at the hospital for noon.

They assessed Elizabeth’s weight, height, blood oxygen levels, pulse rate, and temperature.They asked questions about her medical history and possible allergies. We were seen by the anaesthetist, nurse and surgeon. We were given a lot of health information, but a lot of it we had received before in the form of leaflets about a child’s tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.

So it was time for a long long wait with lots of toys and games in the waiting room to amuse her.

After a couple of hours, a nurse came to put some ‘magic’ cream on the back of her hands. This was to numb the area a little so that they could inject there before the anaesthetic.

Finally our turn was called to go to the theatre. Elizabeth went down to theatre at 3.30pm with Andrew. I felt like I was handing over the most precious thing in my world to the care of others.

We sat and waited in a small room with other anxious looking parents.

Immediately after surgery

We were both called back in to the recovery room at about 4.15pm. Elizabeth was on a monitor and still coming round fully. She was very upset and drowsy. The surgeon came over to tell us that the tonsillectomy had gone well. Her adenoids had been massive, taking up most of the space at the back of her nose and top of her throat, so it was no wonder that she had a tendancy for mouth breathing and had an apnoea issue.

Elizabeth had a slight nose bleed which apparently is normal. And she needed lots of cuddles. She managed to drink a little bit of milk and water and then she fell asleep for 2 hours. Morphine was given after the surgery to help with the initial pain, so this is why she was so sleepy!

She had missed the dinner trolley when she awoke, but there was a kitchen on the ward where you could ask the nurses for toast and sandwiches all night .

Recovery Time For Tonsillectomy In Child

The First Day – first night

The first night was very broken.  The stress of the day meant that our usual routine was out of the window.

We watched one of the films on the iPad until about 9 o’clock, which is so much later than her usual bedtime. But it was a lovely mummy/daughter evening. Elizabeth enjoyed her crisps and food treats. Can you talk after a tonsillectomy? Well, Elizabeth didnt really seem to want to, but she could. She was even ok when we woke her for painkillers at 11.30pm. The only thing she hated was the monitor being stuck to her finger, but the nurse insisted that she kept it on to monitor her heart rate and oxygen levels.

A Child's tonsillectomy iPad

I had been given a really quite substantial camp bed to sleep on, and got into my pyjamas. Just as I was nodding off, a nurse returned, the alarm had gone off at the nurse station! She placed an oxygen mask very close to Elizabeth’s face as she slept, as her oxygen levels had dropped to 92. I watched as her oxygen levels rose back up to steady out at 97-98.

A Child's tonsillectomy oxygen mask

Hospitals are really not good for restful sleep! Some of the other poor children on the ward were obviously not having good nights, and in turn the silence was broken by crying, then anxious mums shushing whilst trying to comfort their children the best they could.

The nurses have to come round to do observations on the patients, and as quiet as they are they still woke me up. Then at 4am Elizabeth was woken up to be given more medicine. She refused to take it, spitting it all out. We both ended up a sticky and bothered mess!

Elizabeth went back to sleep. I didn’t.

Day 2 – The morning after

At 6.30 am Andrew came from home, he had brought one of her bottles so that we could try medicine in milk for her. Even though we had been told that straws and sucking on a bottle was bad for the operation site, it seemed to be the only way of getting her to take medicine. She managed to drink some milk with painkillers, and quickly brightened up.

We were discharged once they were happy she had eaten and drunk some liquids. When we got home Andrew really did have to leave to go to school. Elizabeth and I watched some films and tried to relax a little. I encouraged her to sleep (mainly so I could sleep myself admittedly!) but she also seemed tired, so put up no resistance.

However, when we woke up she refused her painkillers. Just straight refused.

Here are some tips on how we got her to take her medicine.

We had been warned after surgery that she would need to take both ibuprofen and paracetamol for the first 3 days. Then she would need to take paracetamol for the next step 7-10 days, plus ibuprofen when she needed it.

I would say that the evening and night of day 2 going into day 3 was the worst day of tonsillectomy recovery child wise for me. Probably because Elizabeth had been given some morphine in the hospital and been tired after her procedure, she had slept quite a lot up until this moment, but now all this was wearing off the pain and soreness was beginning to affect her. 

I made a rota to try and keep on top of the pain medication, and once we got on top of taking the medication regularly then tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy recovery day by day became easier.

Day 3 and Day 4 

These days were still a little bit of a struggle, we tried all sorts of activities to keep Elizabeth distracted from her recovery. She insisted on the same DVD being played over and over, and things were still obviously very sore. Though I will say that she was managing most foods without any complaints!

Day 5-7

By Day 6 after tonsillectomy she seemed so much more recovered, and by day 7 tonsillectomy recovery seemed pretty much complete for us. I will also say that although I had heard that bad breath from tonsillectomy does happen, I never noticed that Elizabeth had particularly bad breath after tonsillectomy. 

My Tips for Preparing for a Child’s Tonsillectomy – And Some recovery tips

I have lots of adenoid and tonsillectomy recovery tips child wise, and here are my tips to prepare for the procedure.

  1. Read closely any leaflets or information that you are given about a child’s tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy. Do follow these. We were warned that Elizabeth would need to be away from nursery for 10 days at least. So child care will be needed to cover this period at home.
  2. Do get in some of your childs favourite foods for after surgery to encourage them to eat and drink straight away. This helps with healing.Cold drinks and ice cream can be soothing to throats. Do get in ibuprofen and paracetamol painkillers at home as long as your child has no allergy to these. We were told that it can take a good 10 days of painkillers to get over the surgery.
  3. Do follow the fasting instructions to the letter before surgery. This is so important for the safety of your child.
  4. Pack plenty of distractions whilst waiting for the surgery, and if staying overnight. We had a 3 and a half hour wait, but sometimes it can be far longer. It is so hard explaining to a young child about waiting.
  5. Try not to worry too much, the people looking after our children are brilliant at their jobs. It may be hard, but put your trust in them.

I hope you have enjoyed this post about a child tonsillectomy recovery day by day and that I have given you some good tips.

Did the surgery work? I certainly think that by 3 weeks after tonsillectomy we were seeing quite a few positive changes. See this post for how my toddler behavior after tonsillectomy had changed 6 months on…

I hope that this post has helped you prepare for a child’s tonsillectomy, and given you a good idea of day 1 to day 7 of tonsillectomy recovery I would love to hear your comments, do leave them below. Or contact me on social media.

And please do pin this post for later

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35 Replies to “A Child Tonsillectomy Recovery Day By Day – How to Prepare And What To Expect”

  1. Rachael Windemuller says:

    We are lucky that that our local hospital goes youngest to oldest for scheduled surgeries, so our kids are usually in super early. I can’t imagine trying to get my kids not to eat all day. Thanks for the tips 🙂

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you for your comment. It certainly was the hardest part of the procedure. Though I imagine we would also have had a toddler meltdown if she had not been allowed her breakfast after being asleep all night!

  2. Megan says:

    I’m so glad her surgery went well! I had my tonsils removed at a young age, too. All I remember is eating lots of ice cream!! Thanks for providing these helpful tips for parents who are going through this, too!

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Ice cream hasn’t been her favourite actually. She has much preferred the ice popsicles. But it’s good to have the choice in the freezer.

  3. Jo Boyne says:

    Thank you Maria. We are just hopeful that surgery will completely cure her apnoea. It’s early days. Thank you!

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you for such kind words! It’s not an easy time, and I just wanted to help reassure people in the same position. Thank you for reading!

  4. Kaila says:

    You’re such a strong mama! This would be so scary even though pretty routine procedure for the doctors. This article will help so many parents prepare themselves! Great article!

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you for your lovely comment. I do hope that anyone going through the same things can read my post and be a little reassured.

  5. Victoria Garland says:

    Thank you so much for this. Our son is nearly seven and we are waiting for his appointment to come through. Along with have both his tonsils and adenoids out, he’s also have an operation on his ears plus grommets. I am very anxious about the whole thing but your post has been extremely helpful.

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      I do hope that your appointment comes soon, and that all goes to plan. It is an anxious time but I know that you will come through it. Thinking of you.

  6. Twicemicrowaved tea says:

    I can’t imagine how I’d feel if either of my children had to go into hospital for any kind of operation. I always think it must be so much harder for the parents! Hope she’s doing well now. #twinklytuesday

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      She is doing brilliantly thank you, so much better for it all!

      1. Heidi says:

        Thank you for this article! It’s helpful to hear a step by step of what the experience was like for all of you! What did you tell your daughter before the surgery? Did you try to prepare her at all for the fact that she wouldn’t be feeling good for awhile afterwards?

        1. Jo Boyne says:

          You are very welcome. Yes, we did discuss the surgery with our daughter, but as she was only 2 and a half years old she didn’t really understand very much. Needless to say, the doctors, nurses and consultants did a great job of trying to let her know what was happening. And almost 4 years later (she is now 6 and a half) she recalls nothing of that day!

  7. Confessions of a New Mummy says:

    This is a really useful list you’ve put together. I can’t imagine how horrible it must be waiting for your child to have an operation, I do hope she’s made a swift recovery. Thanks for linking up #twinklytuesday x

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you. She is much better now, so yes, I think it was worth it.

  8. Coombe Mill - Fiona says:

    Oh what an anxious time this must have been for you all. Any surgery is scary but on a child all the more worrying. It sounds like she was in safe hands and that you had thought of everything she might need. #KCACOLS

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      She was an absolute star. Such a good girl through it all.And the staff were incredibly good.

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      She was so good about it all! And the staff really were so good.

  9. Tracey Bowden says:

    I had my adenoids out when I was younger but I still have my tonsils and my daughter hasn’t had any issues with hers so far. It sounds like it was a very stressful time and this is perfect for parents going through the same thing with their children. I hope she is feeling better now. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you Tracey, it is a stressful time. I’m glad that it is over, but it’s been really worth it!

  10. Lana says:

    I hope she is doing better and that the surgery helped with her previous issues. I have not had to deal with this or a surgery with my little ones yet. Thank goodness. I know I would be a wreck. It sounds like you handled it really well. And this post is full of helpful information for anyone out there that is going through this. Thanks for sharing. I wish your little one the best. #KCACOLS

  11. Malin - Sensational Learning with Penguin says:

    Very helpful post! Our son had dental surgery in hospital a few years ago, and the hospital experience sounds fairly similar. It’s certainly not fun, that’s for sure. Glad to hear you got through it alright and that your little girl coped so well xx

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      She did better than me when I was little. Thank you for reading.

  12. Laura - Mummy Lauretta says:

    Aw bless her, hope she is recovering well. My partner had his tonsils out in January and he is like my third child so I kind of understand the process. Really helpful post #KCACOLS

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      I’m sure it’s worse for an adult because we understand and get more anxious! Thank you for reading!

  13. Jo Boyne says:

    The staff were fantastic. We are so lucky to have the NHS.

  14. Madeline (This Glorious Life) says:

    This is a really informative post, and the sort of thing I think I would be grateful to read if either of my children needed surgery like this. I hope the recovery is going well for her. x #KCACOLS

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Her recovery has gone really well, it has made such a positive difference that it’s unbelievable!

  15. Becka @ Becka's Bubble says:

    Awww I bet this is so helpful to someone going through it. We have never suffered with tonsillitis thankfully. I hope she’s recovering well. #KCACOLS

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      She is doing very well, the benefits are really obvious already!


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