Patient Instructions – Post Operative Care following Tonsillectomy

Throat and ear pain can be severe after a tonsillectomy and may last for as long as 7-10 days after surgery.  Ear pain is “referred pain” from the tonsil area and does not mean that anything is wrong with the ears.  A prescription for pain medicine will be given following surgery and should be filled and given as ordered.  No aspirin or aspirin-like products, such as ibuprofen, should be taken without first discussing with the surgeon.  Chewing gum, in moderation, can help the pain by lessening muscle spasms.

Bad Breath
It is normal for the patient to have a slight odor to their breath following tonsillectomy, as this does not indicate an infection. Rinsing out the mouth with cool, not hot, water can be done as long as the water can be spit out.  Avoid mouthwashes, such as Scope or Listerine, as they can cause burning to occur and dry out the mouth.

Tonsillectomy patients need to drink a lot of liquids to help healing occur. Avoid citrus juices (orange, lemon, pineapple, grapefruit, cranberry or tomato) as they may burn the throat.  Water, apple juice, and popsicles are good choices.  A diet of softer foods will be preferred by most patients. Some recommended foods are:

  • Sherbet
  • Jell-O
  • Popsicles
  • Italian Ice
  • Pudding
  • Ice cream
  • Scrammbled Eggs
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt
  • Rice
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Applesauce
  • Pasta with butter, margarine or oil
  • Custard
  • Tuna/egg/chicken salad

Avoid foods that might scratch the throat such as potato chips, corn chips, or crackers.


Patients can generally return to school or work 1 week after a tonsillectomy. Limit activity to light or quiet play, being involved in no vigorous activity for two weeks.  Avoid bike riding, rough play, running, or swimming as doing these can cause bleeding to occur.  Children need to avoid physical education class, outside recess activities, and contact sports for two weeks after tonsillectomy.

It is normal for tonsillectomy patients to run a slight fever (99° to 101°) for the first week after surgery.  If the temperature goes above 102°, call the office and speak to one of our medical assistants.  Good fluid intake helps keep the fever down. If the fever is high and persists, then the patient may need to be seen in the emergency department.

Nausea and vomiting
It is not unusual for a tonsillectomy patient to feel sick following a tonsillectomy. This may be secondary to the anesthesia or the prescribed pain medication. If the vomiting persists the day after surgery, call our office and talk to one of the medical assistants.

No bleeding is expected after a tonsillectomy.  If you see any bleeding from the nose or mouth, call the office immediately.  If the bleeding is severe or you are unable to reach us immediately, go to the nearest emergency room.

Warning signs
If any of the following occurs, then call the office and talk with one of the medical assistants:

  • bleeding from nose or mouth
  • vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds
  • a croupy (barky) cough/cry or wheezing that is persistent
  • a fever of 102° degrees or higher
  • vomiting that lasts more than six hours, or if the vomiting is severe

Follow up
A check up will be scheduled for 2 weeks after surgery.  It is important that you keep this appointment to know if healing is complete and there are no further diet or activity restrictions.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call our office.

Robert Wilson, MD.