10 ways to survive your adult tonsillectomy


So I know all my family, friends and followers are probably bored to tears hearing about me getting my tonsils taken out but I can’t help it (#sorrynotsorry) — it’s all I’ve had to deal with for the past 10 days. So I decided to share a bit of my experience via 10 tips for surviving an adult tonsillectomy. (And I hope and pray you’ll never have to actually use these tips.)

Maybe you’ve heard the horror stories. Sorry to break it to you but they’re true. Recovering from a tonsillectomy as an adult is 10 billion times harder than recovering as a kid. Darn those kids and their bodies with the ability to bounce back within days!

The experience will be different for everyone and will depend on how your own body reacts, so just know that these tips are coming from me and aren’t professional in any way shape or form.

1. Prepare. This is probably the most important thing you could do for yourself. Whatever you have to do to prepare for surgery and recovery, do it. For me it was filling my pain med prescriptions ahead of time (super important), cleaning my room and doing my laundry, stocking up on cold and soft foods like pudding and popsicles, etc.

2. Have a “nurse.” I take it back. THIS is the most important thing you could do for yourself. Your doctor and others aren’t kidding when they say you will need someone around that is available 24/7 to take care of you. This person needs to be able to wake up in the middle of the night to feed you and give you your meds. My mom was around for a good portion of my recovery and then my aunt took care of me for the bulk of it, since I live with her. We developed this little system where if I needed her I’d just use my cellphone to call her, I’d let it ring twice and she’d be downstairs as soon as she could. I was also recovering from nasal surgery (they removed my turbinate bones as well as my tonsils) so she practically saved my life, let’s be honest.

3. Ask for anti-nausea medicine. Especially if you react strongly to pain meds. Your doctor will most likely prescribe you Lortab, which is a liquid, and Percocet, which is a pill. Both are narcotics, which means you MUST take them with food or you will likely throw up. Again, this depends on your body, but I’m a weakling (and a redhead) so my body pretty much thought my meds were poison. It was difficult for me to keep anything more solid than jello down for almost a week because of this. I was then prescribed Ondansetron (or Zofran), which is an antiemetic used to prevent nausea and vomiting following chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. You take it every eight hours with or without food and it too, will save your life.

4. Get (or borrow) a humidifier. This is serious. Having a humidifier constantly going in your room may make it feel like Florida (which is what my brother said when he first walked into my room last weekend), but you won’t even notice. You’ll thank me when you wake up and your throat doesn’t feel like you have a chainsaw stuck in it.

5. Drink. That’s really all there is to this one. Drinking is so important — drink water, gatorade, vitamin water, whatever you can (well, besides alcohol and milk, of course) to stay hydrated. It might kill going down your throat but it’ll hurt more if you don’t.

6. Avoid dairy and citrus at all costs. For a couple of days the only thing I wanted to eat/could stomach was a Peanut Butter Moo’d from Jamba Juice. And even though the only dairy in it is really from the frozen yogurt they use, that was enough to create a ton of mucus in the back of my throat. (TMI? Maybe.) Which was it’s own kind of painful. And citrus — just don’t. I had one sip of something that had citrus in it and automatically threw up because of the acid. Which will also burn your throat going down, too.

7. Sleep. Sleeping can be hard, but you’ve got to do it. You may feel more exhausted than before after waking up, but hey, that means you can just go back to sleep. Embrace the fact that a proper sleeping schedule will cease to exist for you. Sleep whenever you can for as long as you can. Just be prepared for your throat to really hurt when you wake up. This is why the humidifier and keeping hydrated is important. Make it your first instinct to take a sip of water first thing when you wake up, especially during the night. Set an alarm to drink water if you have to. I also found it helpful to suck on some ice or eat a popsicle before trying to eat something after waking up, since it kind of numbs your throat.

8. Have plenty of entertainment options. I always kept a couple of magazines on my bed, but to be real, I only read them a few times. I watched a few movies, quite a lot of Say Yes to the Dress and all the episode of House Hunters International Hulu had available (and now I really want to move to Italy). However, I was surprised with how much I didn’t watch. Sometimes I would feel too sick or tired to even attempt to have enough brainpower to watch a chick flick. So definitely try to keep the TV and movie watching to ones that are pretty mindless. I did like to watch a show or movie while eating though, since it could sometimes take me an hour or more to eat a bowl of mash potatoes (not kidding). My favorite thing was Pinterest on my phone — not my laptop — so I could lie down. But even using my phone would give me a bit of vertigo sometimes, so it was definitely hit-and-miss.

9. Chew gum. Not only will it be hard to/you might forget to shower (try not to), but you might forget to brush your teeth. Bad breath is a side effect of getting your tonsils taken out, unfortunately, so gum definitely helps with that but it also keeps your mouth from going dry.

10. Get up and walk around. This was so hard for me! Especially with how loopy I was on my meds. My mom had to walk me around downstairs, holding my arm, (I think that was like day three) and even had to sit on a chair in the bathroom while I took a shower in case I fell or passed out. But getting up and walking around, even if it’s just around your own bedroom, will help make sure you don’t lose all your walking abilities (your muscles will be so weak) from staying in bed for days on end. There were plenty of days where all the walking I did was to get up to go to the bathroom which is right next door to my room, but I really should have tried to walk around every day, multiple times a day.

Lastly, just relax. Luckily, I was able to talk pretty easily from day one, but that might be different for you. I reacted to my pain meds, but you might be just fine. Sometimes I’d be so shocked with the pain after waking up that I couldn’t help but cry. Of course you are going to regret the surgery multiple times. Just remember that every difficult thing we experience in this life is temporary and it will be over before you know it. Ten days (it’s really two weeks) is really a short amount of time when you compare it to the rest of your tonsil-less life.