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This fact sheet includes information about care at home for children discharged from hospital after having their tonsils and adenoids removed. For information about why your child requires the surgery and what to expect, see our fact sheet
Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (T&A).
It is normal for your child to have a sore throat, ear pain, bad breath, voice changes and white patches in the throat after their surgery. These problems can happen for up to two weeks after tonsils and adenoids are removed. These things do not mean that there is an infection.
Check on your child at least twice during the night for the first two nights to see if there is any bleeding or difficulty with breathing. If your child is under four years old, it may be best to sleep in the same room.
Eating and drinking is very important after surgery as it will help clean and heal the throat. There are no restrictions on what your child can eat. Your child may prefer to eat softer foods, but it is fine to eat hard foods, such as toast or cereals.
Make sure your child also drinks plenty of fluids throughout the day for the first few days following surgery. If they are not eating a normal amount, giving them some drinks containing sugar (e.g. juice or cordial) will ensure they are getting some calories for energy.
If your child vomits, stop giving food for an hour, then give fluids if they feel better. If they can take fluids without vomiting, start them on small amounts of food.
If your child continues to vomit, contact your GP or your nearest hospital emergency department.
Your child may not feel like doing very much for up to 10 days after their surgery. Many children need two weeks home from school or kindergarten. The amount of usual activity your child participates in should be guided by how they feel.
It is normal for your child to have a very sore throat and ears after having tonsils and adenoids removed. Your child will need pain medication for up to two weeks and their pain may get worse before it gets better.
The 4th or 5th day after the surgery is a common time for the pain to get temporarily worse.
Signs of pain in younger children may be crying more often, or refusal to eat or drink.
It is important that your child is given regular pain relief for the first week after the operation including paracetamol (e.g. Panadol) and other medications prescribed by their doctor.
If your child's pain is not controlled using the medications they were prescribed, please visit your local doctor who may suggest different medications.
Help your child to understand what to expect by using simple age appropriate language. It is important to be honest with them about the surgery and recovery.
It can be useful to use distraction techniques together with pain relief medicine so that your child doesn’t focus on the pain too much. Some distraction techniques include:
You should monitor your child at home for any problems that might occur during their recovery.
If your child has any of the following, you should take them to your GP or nearest hospital emergency department:
You will receive a call at home 4 days after your child’s surgery, to see how your child is recovering and to answer any questions you may have.
Does the body need
tonsils and adenoids? What happens if they are removed?
The body does not actually need so much tonsil and adenoid tissue. This means that your child will be perfectly healthy without their tonsils and adenoids.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Surgery and Otolaryngology departments
with input from Safer Care Victoria. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers
Developed September 2019.
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital
Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.