Everything You Need to Know about Tonsillectomy in Children

Everything You Need to Know about Tonsillectomy in Children

A tonsillectomy refers to an operation carried out to remove tonsils. Tonsils are lymphoid organs present in your neck that help to fight infections and keep them at bay.

Sometimes, these protective organs can themselves become infected leading to a condition known as tonsillitis. Tonsillitis is extremely common in children and can lead to pain, difficulty in swallowing, and fever.

Surgery or tonsillectomy is the only reliable way to stop tonsillitis that keeps recurring in children. Sometimes, a long course of antibiotics in children can also break the cycle of recurring infections. In certain cases, the infection simply stops on its own.

What does the Operation Involve?

Tonsillectomy in children is performed with the help of general anesthesia. The total procedure requires 30 minutes only.

The surgeon will carry out tonsillectomy in children through the mouth. They will peel or cut the tonsil away from the muscular layer lying underneath it. This is followed by removal of tonsil and cauterization of the area.

Sometimes, radio-frequency is used for dissolution of the tonsil. The extra bleeding is prevented and measures are taken to stop it immediately in case it happens.

tonsillectomy in children

What Complications can Occur?

Two different types of complications can be expected during a tonsillectomy in children:

  1. General Complications

These can include:

  • Infection at the surgical site
  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  1. Specific Complications
  • Lingual tonsillitis
  • Tiny pieces of the tonsil might be left behind

How Soon can the Child Recover?

Your child is expected to get discharged and go home the same day. Sometimes, hospitalization might be required just for the night.

The pain associated with tonsillectomy can last up to 14 days. It tends to be worse in the morning and relieves later on during the day.

Children need to quit school and stay away from other people for 2 weeks. This is a preventive measure in order to avoid any infections as their throats heal.

Caring for Children after Tonsillectomy


Pain medicines: Inquire from the doctor how much pain medication does your child need. You might be instructed to provide these medicines according to a schedule or simply as and when the need arises.

It is important that your child uses pain medications when he should.  Watch out for signs of pain and expect that the medication will reduce it, but cannot treat it completely.

Remember that your child will suffer from the greatest level of pain at morning. Inform the surgeon if the pain persists or worsens with time. Also, inform him if your child refuses to swallow the medication.

Some of the common pain medications to give after tonsillectomy in children include:

  • Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen is an over-the-counter medication that can reduce your child’s fever and pain. Do not give this medicine to your child if he is already receiving another medicine as suggested by the doctor. The doctor will suggest the right time and dose for acetaminophen. Remember that overdosing on this medicine can damage the liver.
  • Ibuprofen: This is another OTC medicine which can reduce pain, swelling, and fever in your child. Do not give ibuprofen to your children without approving it from the surgeon.

It is important to remember that aspirin must never be given to a child after surgery as it can heighten the risk of bleeding.


Antibiotics: Antibiotics might be suggested by the doctor for the prevention of any infection. So, provide your child with antibiotics as and when directed, even if he seems well.

Take care to give your child his medicines as directed. Immediately call the doctor if you think that a particular medicine is not improving the condition of your child or if it is causing any side effects.

It is also important to inform the doctor if your child is already taking any herbs, vitamins, or medicines. Make a list of medicines that he already takes along with its amounts and the reason why he takes them. Don’t forget to bring this list to every follow-up.


Sometimes, children may suffer from bleeding right after going through tonsillectomy. In most of the cases, this happens 4-8 days post-surgery but the risk persists up to 3 weeks.

So, what should you do if your child suddenly starts bleeding?

If the bleeding is little, make your child sit down, take rest, and drink ice water. However, if the bleeding is intense and is not stopping, take the child to an emergency department at once.

tonsillectomy in children

It is also significant to follow certain steps which can reduce the risk of bleeding in your child.

These steps include avoiding smoking anywhere near him. The child must not be taken to any smoky area after tonsillectomy for a few days. Prevent your child from indulging in rough play activities such as running, wrestling, and yelling.

Use ice packs on the child more often. Place some ice in a plastic bag and wrap it in a towel. Make the child hold it right in front of his neck to soothe the surgical site. Help him brush teeth and rinse the mouth in a gentle way.

Do not let your child eat foods or consume liquids that are hot or have sharp edges, for example, chips. The child must also not blow his nose, clear his throat, or a cough to avoid excessive pressure buildup which can increase the risk of bleeding.

Food and Drink

Foods and beverages that are cold will help to reduce swelling and pain. Do not give milk or other dairy foods to your child if he has a thick mucus problem in his throat. These products can cause him to cough and increase the chances of bleeding.

  • Liquids: Make sure that your child drinks plenty of liquids after the surgery. This is important to prevent fluid loss and keep the temperature low. Moreover, consuming lots of fluid will also speed up the process of healing. Give the child water and juices such as grape or apple.
  • Foods: If your child can consume liquids easily and has no stomach problems, this means that he can eat soft food as well. Some examples of the food items that you should give to your child include oatmeal, applesauce, macaroni, ice cream, gelatin, and soft-boiled eggs. Avoid giving any spicy thing as it can irritate the surgical site.

tonsillectomy in children

Take Care of your Child

  • Make sure that your child takes rest and limits his activity. He may watch movies, read, or play computer games in the meantime
  • get a cool humidifier to keep the air moistened as it will soothe your child’s throat
  • Keep your child away from people having sore throats, colds, or flu
  • Follow up with the surgeon in a day or two or as instructed
  • Note down any questions that you may have regarding the recovery of your child so that you remember to ask them from the doctor

Contact the primary healthcare provider for your child if:

  • Your child suffers from an earache or throat pain that keeps worsening
  • Your child suffers from high-grade fever.
  • Your child continues to suffer from pain even after taking medicine
  • Your child’s face or neck becomes red over the time
  • Your child complains of a rash or itchy skin. This might indicate an allergy to the medicine he is taking
Nancy Walker

Nancy holds a Medicine degree and a Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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