What is a tonsillectomy?
A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove the tonsils. Sometimes the adenoids are removed at the same time. Your doctor will do the surgery through your child's mouth. After the surgery, your child may not have a sore throat as often. If your child had trouble breathing at night, those breathing problems may improve.
Your child will be fine without tonsils and will not look different. You won't be able to see any scars from the surgery.
Children can usually go home 2 to 4 hours after the surgery. They usually have a sore throat and ear pain for up to 2 weeks after surgery. Your child will probably be able to go back to school or day care in 1 week and to full activity in 2 weeks.
How do you prepare for surgery?
Surgery can be stressful for both your child and you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's surgery.
Preparing for surgery
- Talk to your child about the surgery. Tell your child that the surgery may keep him or her from getting sick so often. Hospitals know how to take care of children. The staff will do all they can to make it easier for your child.
- Ask if a special tour of the surgery area and hospital is available. This may make your child feel less nervous about what happens.
- Plan for your child's recovery time. Your child may need more of your time right after the surgery, both for care and for comfort.
- Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
- Tell the doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the surgery. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
The day before surgery
- A nurse may call you (or you may need to call the hospital). This is to confirm the time and date of your child's surgery and answer any questions.
- Remember to follow your doctor's instructions about your child taking or stopping medicines before surgery. This includes over-the-counter medicines.
What happens on the day of surgery?
- Follow the instructions exactly about when your child should stop eating and drinking. If you don't, the surgery may be canceled. If the doctor told you to have your child take any medicines on the day of surgery, have your child take them with only a sip of water.
- Have your child take a bath or shower before you come in. Do not apply lotion or deodorant.
- Your child may brush their teeth. But tell your child not to swallow any toothpaste or water.
- Do not let your child wear contact lenses. Bring your child's glasses or contact lens case.
- Be sure your child has something that's a reminder of home. A special stuffed animal, toy, or blanket may be comforting. For an older child, it might be a book or music.
At the hospital or surgery center
- A parent or legal guardian must accompany your child.
- Your child will be kept comfortable and safe by the anesthesia provider. Your child will be asleep during the surgery.
- The surgery usually takes less than 1 hour.
- After surgery, your child will be taken to the recovery room. As your child wakes up, the recovery room staff will monitor your child's condition. The doctor will talk to you about the surgery.
- You will probably be able to take your child home 2 to 4 hours after the surgery.
When should you call your doctor?
- You have questions or concerns.
- You don't understand how to prepare your child for the surgery.
- Your child becomes ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
- You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about your child having the surgery.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter I885 in the search box to learn more about "Tonsillectomy: Before Your Child's Surgery".
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Donald R. Mintz MD - Otolaryngology