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Your Tonsils and Adenoids – Having a Tonsillectomy

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

The tonsils are oval collections of tissue located in the back of the throat on the right and left sides. The uvula hangs down from the middle of the soft palate, between the tonsils. The adenoids are located above the soft palate on the back wall of the throat near the eustachian tubes. The eustachian tubes are small air passages that connect the space under the eardrum with the back of the nose. When you clear your ears on an airplane, you are equalizing air pressure through the eustachian tubes.

The primary purpose of the tonsils and adenoids is to trap and destroy viruses and bacteria.

For two weeks after tonsillectomy, we recommend that you don’t get into a position where you couldn’t get to a hospital. For example, no airplane travel, no long car rides, no camping in the woods. If you are planning any trips after surgery, please discuss this with your doctor.

Postoperative infection: As with any surgical incision, the tonsillar area can become infected after surgery. Your doctor may want to prescribe some antibiotics to help avoid this problem.

Problems sealing the soft palate against the back wall of the throat: Children with extremely large adenoid pads may have some short term problems moving the soft palate after removal of the adenoids.

The soft palate may have become a bit “lazy” because the adenoid pad was helping to seal off the back of the nasal cavities during speech and swallowing. If the seal is weak, children can have temporary changes in speech quality or have fluid leak from the nose when drinking rapidly.

Usually time and simple speech exercises are adequate therapy for development of necessary strength and bulk in the muscles of the soft palate, so that it can create a good seal.

There are several important aspects about the surgery with which you should be familiar.

Before the surgery, take the time to write down a list of any medicines you are currently taking. Be sure to list the exact name, dosage and number of times a day you take each medicine. Tell us if you have ever had a reaction to a medicine, local anesthetic, tape, or skin cleanser.

Avoid aspirin for one to two weeks prior to any surgical procedure, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

Don’t eat or drink anything after midnight, the night before your surgery. If you’re taking a medicine that has a morning dose, you should ask your doctor if he or she wants you to stop the medication the night before, or take the medicine with a small sip of water at an earlier time.

Call your doctor if you develop an acute illness or have an asthma attack within three days of your scheduled surgery. If you are exposed to measles, mumps or chicken pox within 21 days of the procedure, you should also notify your doctor. He or she may want to consider rescheduling the procedure.

After You Leave the Hospital

During the second week, postoperative pain normally begins to improve slowly with each passing day. By the end of the third week, you should be about back to normal.

It is common to have ear pain. This is called ‘referred’ pain. Pain from the throat after surgery will often cause pain in the ears as well, and this will go away as the throat heals.

Your uvula may swell up for three or four days after surgery. It can give you the feeling that there is something constantly in the back of your throat that needs to be swallowed. Don’t be alarmed – this is normal!

You may also have a low-grade fever for a few days. Notify your doctor if it persists or if it goes above 102.5° Fahrenheit.

If any bleeding occurs: call your doctor immediately or go directly to the nearest emergency room. If no one can safely drive you, call an ambulance.

We encourage the following: popsicles, Jell-O®, applesauce, soft cereals, Italian ice, ice chips, and popsicles made from Gatorade®, scrambled eggs, pasta with butter, etc. You may be flexible and experiment with various foods and liquids, as long as they are soft and easy to swallow.

Take all the medications your doctor prescribes. Avoid products that contain aspirin because they interfere with blood clotting. You can gargle gently with warm saltwater to cleanse the back of the throat after eating and to help remove any bad taste.

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