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Health Information For Parents
A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove the tonsils. Tonsils are lumps of tissue on both sides of the back of the throat that help the immune system protect the body from infections.
Tonsillectomy (tahn-suh-LEK-tuh-mee) is one of the most common surgeries kids and teens get. But they’re done less often than in the past because large tonsils may shrink on their own over time.
Kids usually have a tonsillectomy because:
Your health care provider will let you know if your child should stop taking any medicine in the week or two before the surgery. You’ll also be told when your child should stop eating and drinking because the stomach must be empty on the day of the procedure.
Surgery, no matter how common or simple, can be scary for kids. Help prepare your child by talking about what to expect.
An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon will do the surgery while your child is under general anesthesia. This means an anesthesiologist will keep your child safely and comfortably asleep during the procedure.
The surgery is done through your child’s open mouth. There are no cuts through the skin and no visible scars.
The two main types of tonsillectomy surgery are:
Usually, parents can stay with their child until the anesthesiologist gives medicine. Then you’ll go to a waiting area until the surgery is over.
A tonsillectomy usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes, though it can take a little longer.
Your child will wake up in the recovery area. Many kids go home the same day, though some may stay overnight. In general, kids under 3 years old and those with serious sleep problems (like apnea) usually stay overnight.
Depending on the type of surgery done, recovery after a tonsillectomy may take a week or more. Expect some pain and discomfort after the tonsils are removed, which can make it hard for kids to eat and drink.
There are risks with any surgery, including infection and problems with anesthesia.
Sometimes children get dehydrated from not drinking enough when they go home, and may need to come back to the hospital for fluids.
Rarely, bleeding might happen during the surgery, right after it, or up to 2 weeks later. Call the doctor right away if your child coughs up, throws up, or spits out bright red blood or blood clots. Doctors might need to do another procedure to stop the bleeding.
Give your child pain medicine as directed by your health care provider.
Kids should rest at home for a few days following surgery and take it easy for a couple of weeks. They can return to school or childcare when they can eat normally, are sleeping well, and don’t need pain medicine.
Offer plenty to drink, and soft foods like pudding, soup, gelatin, or mashed potatoes until your child is ready for solid foods.
Kids should avoid blowing their nose for 2 weeks after surgery, as well as any rough playing or contact sports.
Call the doctor if your child:
Call the doctor right away if your child vomits blood or something that looks like coffee grounds, or has trouble breathing.
After tonsillectomy, kids can still get colds, sore throats, and throat infections. They won’t get tonsillitis unless the tonsils grow back, which is uncommon.
Even though the tonsils are part of the immune system, removing them doesn’t affect the body’s ability to fight infections. The immune system has many other ways to fight germs.
Tonsillitis is an infection that makes tonsils swollen and red. It can cause a sore throat, fever, swollen glands, and trouble swallowing.
Strep throat is a common cause of sore throat in kids and teens. It usually requires treatment with antibiotics, but improves in a few days.
A peritonsillar abscess is an area of pus-filled tissue at the back of the mouth, next to one of the tonsils. Find out how it happens and what to do.
If your child needs to have an operation, you probably have plenty of questions, many of them about anesthesia.
Older kids and teens with tonsilitis sometimes develop this painful abscess, a pus-filled tissue at the back of the mouth.
Strep throat gives you a sore throat and makes it hard to swallow. Find out more in this article for kids.
Knowing what to expect with surgery before you get to the hospital can make you less anxious about your surgical experience – and less stress helps a person recover faster.
Often, tonsils and adenoids are surgically removed at the same time. So, what are adenoids exactly?
Sometimes tonsils need to be removed, but how is it done? Find out in this article for kids.
Everybody’s heard of tonsils, but not everyone knows what tonsils do in the body or why they may need to be removed. Find out here.
Surgeries and operations happen in the operating room, sometimes called the OR. Find out more in this article for kids.
Strep throat is a common infection that usually needs to be treated with antibiotics. Find out how to recognize the signs of strep throat and what to expect if you have it.
If your tonsils get infected, it can make your throat feel very sore. Find out more in this article for kids.
Just what are adenoids? And why do kids sometimes have to get their adenoids removed? Get the answers here.
You wake up and your throat is swollen and you have a fever. Could it be tonsillitis? Find out what tonsillitis is, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.
Good preparation can help your child feel less anxious about getting surgery. Kids of all ages cope much better if they have an idea of what’s going to happen and why.
Enlarged adenoids are normal some kids, but others need surgery. Often, tonsils and adenoids are removed at the same time.
Here’s a quick look at what may happen before, during, and after on the day of your child’s operation or procedure.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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