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Helping Your Child Heal After a Tonsillectomy

For many kids, getting their tonsils out is a rite of passage.

Tonsillectomy is the second most common surgical procedure performed on children, following the placement of tubes in the ears. More than 500,000 tonsillectomies are performed in the U.S. each year.

Tonsillectomy is a way to treat repeat infections and swelling in the throat, like tonsillitis or strep throat. Tonsils act as “filters,” and can trap and hold infection.

While tonsillectomy is a proven way to stop repeat infections, the recovery can be difficult. Knowing what to do to help your child recover can make this go much easier.

Plan ahead

Go ahead and plan to have comfort items for your child to enjoy as they recover. They’ll likely still be a little “out of it” from the anesthesia when you get home, so this is a great time to let them curl up on the couch with some soft throw blankets and their favorite pillow and watch TV.

Shop before the procedure for the foods your child will want. Having plenty of water, popsicles and juices on hand — but nothing with too strong of a flavor — can make sure they stay hydrated. Also, they’ll need soft foods, like gelatin, scrambled eggs, pasta and that post-tonsillectomy favorite: ice cream.

You’ll also likely be given prescriptions to have filled before the tonsillectomy. This way, you’ll have your child’s medications on hand when you get home.

Limit activity

It’s not hard to convince your child to stay on the couch at first, but as they heal, their activity level will increase.

It’s important to make sure they don’t do anything too strenuous for at least one to two weeks after the procedure to give the throat time to heal. Doing too much, too fast, can cause bleeding in the throat.

Manage pain

One of the most common complaints among parents after a tonsillectomy is that their child won’t eat or drink. This is normal, since the throat is likely to be sore for a week or two.

Your ENT specialist will prescribe pain medicine to help and may recommend ibuprofen or aspirin on a case-by-case basis.

Keep encouraging them to drink fluids! Staying hydrated will help them heal faster and keeping the throat moist helps with pain.

Watch their diet

We’ve covered the need for soft foods — but there are some foods you should avoid.

Don’t feed them anything rough, like toast, crackers or potato chips. Avoid fresh fruits, which can be acidic. Stick to soft, mushy foods.

If you have any questions or concerns, don’t be afraid to reach out to your child’s ENT practice. We’re happy to address your concerns.

For more information on the surgical care available at Tanner, visit SurgeryAtTanner.org.

Tanner Medical Group, Children's Health Care, Primary Care

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