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How Long Does it Take to Recover From a Tonsillectomy?

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Updated May 16, 2014

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How Long Does it Take to Recover From a Tonsillectomy?
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Question: How Long Does it Take to Recover From a Tonsillectomy?
Answer:

If you are planning on having a tonsillectomy, you probably want to know how long you should schedule off of work or school. Since everyone is different, there is no exact answer to that question -- your body will heal in its own time. Your recovery time will also depend on the method your doctor uses to remove your tonsils. It's a lot to factor in, but we can give you some estimates that might help with pre-surgery planning.

Tonsillectomies are routinely performed on a same-day basis in the US, but don't let that fool you into thinking you'll be back to work the next day. While you will be given pain medication to make you as comfortable as possible, you can expect to be sore, and possibly a bit nauseous or just lacking an appetite. You'll probably feel more tired than usual and want to sleep. Plus, you can't drive while taking pain medication.

In addition to the method your surgeon uses to remove your tonsils, the amount of time it takes you to recover will depend on many factors, including your age, your general health, and how well you take care of yourself after surgery.

You've heard that the older you are, the harder it is to recover from a tonsillectomy -- and that's true. Small children just bounce back sooner than the rest of us. For this reason, I've divided recovery times into age groups. You should also keep in mind that any surgery, including a tonsillectomy, takes about one year to completely heal. You will feel better long before this but your incisions will still be healing for quite some time.

Children Aged 2-5

  • Feeling better - usually in a few days
  • Back to normal activities - by two weeks (keep in mind that children this age will usually want to engage in normal activities before this, but because there is an increased risk of bleeding 7-10 days after surgery, they should still take it easy)

Children Aged 5-12

  • Feeling better - sometime within the first week
  • Able to eat solid foods - 2 weeks
  • Back to normal activities - 2 weeks
  • Completely healed - one year

Adolescents Aged 12-19

  • Feeling better - about 2 weeks
  • Able to eat solid foods - 2 weeks
  • Back to normal activities - 2 weeks
  • Completely healed - one year

Healthy Adults Aged 19+

  • Feeling better - about 2 weeks
  • Able to eat solid foods - 2 weeks
  • Back to normal activities - 2-3 weeks
  • Completely healed - one year

You may feel like eating solid foods, but because of an increased risk for bleeding 7-10 days after surgery when the scabs slough off, I recommend waiting 2 weeks (but follow your doctor's instructions above all).

You should not be discouraged if your recovery time does not fit into these approximations, but do call your doctor if you have any bright red bleeding, a fever, uncontrollable pain, or any other concerns. Individuals who have underlying health issues, such as diabetes, or who have a weakened immune system, will likely take longer to recover.

The tonsillectomy procedure also carries a risk of complications, including breathing difficulties, infection, blood clots, or bleeding. Any of these complications will lengthen the amount of time it takes for you to recover.

Scroll down for insights from readers who have had their tonsils removed on what to eat and what the worst part of having a tonsillectomy was.

Source:

American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. Tonsillectomy Facts in the U.S. Accessed: April 30, 2012 from http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/TonsillectomyFactsFromENTs.cfm

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