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Mum and Dad

9 tonsillectomy recovery tips for your little one


Sabrina Garibian

posted in Parenting

“I can’t believe I decided to get my tonsils out instead of taking that chalky medicine. I’m nervous,” my 6-year-old son Raffi said just a few seconds before they took him back for his tonsillectomy. He looked so small yet so big and brave, carrying the teddy he’s had since birth, and wearing too small Christmas pajamas, the ones he loves the most.

I sat in the waiting room, 27 weeks pregnant and desperately trying not to burst into tears, less because I’d be embarrassed and more because there were other little kids in the waiting room, about to follow the same path my son just did. I didn’t want to frighten them.

Raffi has had several cases of strep over the last few years, and the taste of the chalky antibiotics make him get sick. Getting him to take his medicine is a horrible struggle, and when he has strep he misses at least a week of school. He hates missing school and hates that medicine even more. We collectively agreed a tonsillectomy was the best choice and not to wait any longer, but man was I losing it on the day of surgery.

We are now on the other side and well into recovery. And I have plenty of tonsillectomy recovery tips to share with you. Here are the ones I found most valuable.

9 tonsillectomy recovery tips for your little one

9 tonsillectomy recovery tips for your little one:

1. Stay on top of your child’s pain medication. Even if your child doesn’t seem to be in pain, give him his medicine at every interval to stay ahead of the pain.

2. Set alarms overnight to give your child his pain medication, and wake him up to give it at regular intervals. Again, staying ahead of the pain is key.

3. Have plenty of different options for food ready, including pudding, yogurt, freeze pops, popsicles, ice cream, milkshake ingredients, etc. You won’t really know what your child might need, and staying hydrated is super important. Have everything ready. My son ended up wanting ice cream and French madeleines almost exclusively, while I would have thought he would have wanted freeze pops around the clock.

4. Don’t get red popsicles or red freeze pops because you want to be able to tell the difference between ice pop drool and blood.

5. The pain will get worse before it gets better. Don’t make any plans for the first week after a tonsillectomy. Have backup plans for the second week. Raffi had a pretty easy recovery, but there’s no way he could have gone out and about that entire first week.

6. Get childcare for siblings for several days if you can. Your child may need your complete attention in those early days. This was the most important piece for us. We had childcare for the girls the first two days, and then my husband worked from home for a few more days. It allowed me to focus on Raffi only.

7. Stock up on movies, board games, Legos, and drawing supplies. Your child might sleep a lot at first but he may also be wide awake yet in pain. Have sedentary activities ready for your child.

8. It’s worth saying again that staying hydrated and on top of pain medication is a big priority. You don’t want your child’s throat to get dry. If water is too difficult try apple juice, Gatorade, and Pedialyte.

9. Be patient with your child. Two weeks after his tonsillectomy, despite having eaten regular meals for a couple of days, Raffi pushed away his dinner and asked for ice cream. I almost said no but I’m glad I didn’t. His meals were a little funny for that third week. Sometimes he would eat normally and some meals his throat just hurt too much. I also didn’t realize how clingy and independent my son would be at the same time. I had to keep reminding myself to be patient and try to meet every one of his needs.

Other notes:

Before the surgery, I followed the advice of an OR nurse and spoke to Raffi with confidence. Raffi can handle anything as long as he has all the information, so I was very matter-of-fact about what would happen and why it was happening. I told him it wouldn’t hurt to go under anesthesia and that he likely wouldn’t need antibiotics for a long time after, but that his throat will hurt a lot after. I also promised him any food or drink he wanted in the world, which he was very excited about given that we normally avoid food dyes.

We are about a month out from his tonsillectomy and it was by far the best decision we’ve made. Raffi has slept well every single night for weeks. He doesn’t toss and turn or come in our room in the middle of the night. He falls asleep easily. He rarely clears his throat, something we thought was a tic but turns out was due to his enlarged tonsils. Raffi seems to be eating better and more than ever before. We hadn’t realized what a big impact removing his tonsils would have, and we are thrilled that we went ahead and had it done.

I hope these tips help you as your child recovers from his tonsillectomy.

What tips do you have for recovering from a tonsillectomy?

Photos: iStock


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