What Can I Eat After a Tonsillectomy?

Eating cold foods like ice cream can help minimize pain.
Eating cold foods like ice cream can help minimize pain. Paul Moore/Getty Images

A tonsillectomy and an adenoidectomy are common surgeries to remove your tonsils and adenoids. You will generally need these surgeries, if you have 5 or more infections in one year or are having complications related to the size of your tonsils.  The tonsillectomy generally will only take about 30 to 45 minutes and can be performed in a same day surgical center that is generally connected to a hospital.

How Will I Feel After Surgery

When you are returning from the operating room, you will still be sedated, but you will awaken soon after arriving to the recovery room. It is common to have a sore throat when you wake up, and your nurse will be able treat your pain. You will likely ask your nurse or a family member the same question multiple times and will be unable to remember that you already asked the question. This is normal due to the medications that you are given during the surgery.

You will generally be discharged to home following the surgery unless, you have a significant history of sleep apnea or have a complication during the tonsillectomy. If you are under the age of 19, you will likely recover from the tonsillectomy over the course of 7 to 14 days. While if you are an adult, you can expect to recover between 2 to 3 weeks. These are just general estimates and your recovery may differ based on your own recovery rate.

The most common complaint following surgery is throat pain that can impair your ability to eat. Your doctor will prescribe medications to help manage your pain. Taking the medications as needed will help you to eat and drink after surgery.

What Can I Eat After a Tonsillectomy

There used to be a lot of expert opinions that suggested that diet and activity should be restricted to prevent or minimize your risk of post-operative bleeding.

This is not necessarily the case anymore. However pain, and potential post-surgical or medication induced nausea may increase your desire to modify your diet. If you're looking to stock the fridge before the big day, here are some things you should know to help reduce your level of discomfort with eating after a tonsillectomy:

  • While ice cream is a feel-good food after a tonsillectomy, you should avoid dairy products if you are having nausea or vomiting (a side effect of anesthesia and narcotic pain medication). Instead, stick to clear liquids such as apple juice, soda such as Sprite, black coffee, or soup broth.
  • Avoid food and drinks high in citric acid such as tomato juice or lemonade as they can sting and cause pain.
  • You should also avoid very hot drinks and make sure your soup is not too hot before eating it.
  • Cold food and fluids reduce swelling and pain.

Drinking After a Tonsillectomy

After having surgery, it will be important to ensure that you stay well hydrated for the first 72 hours. Being well hydrated helps keep your site moist, which reduces surgical pain. Dehydration is also a common reason for emergency department visits after surgery, so increasing your fluid intake will reduce your risk for additional visits to the hospital.

Your drink temperature preference after surgery may be different from someone else. In general cold drinks (like apple juice, ice water, or soda) may make you feel better as it cools your surgical sites. Warm drinks (like tea or coffee) on the other hand may provide you with a soothing sensation that you will like after surgery. Hot drinks will generally induce pain, and some believe may hurt your surgical site and potentially cause bleeding. However this appears to be more myth than truth according to research.

Foods to Eat Following a Tonsillectomy

While there really are not foods you cannot eat after a tonsillectomy, as long as you're not sick to your stomach, here are some good suggestions that are soft or cold:

  • ice cream
  • popsicles
  • juice
  • pudding
  • mashed potatoes
  • jello
  • soft pasta
  • applesauce
  • bananas

Foods to Avoid Following a Tonsillectomy

While these foods are not harmful after surgery, it is generally believed that you may experience more discomfort by eating foods that are hard, have sharp edges, hot, or spicy:

  • chips
  • crackers
  • popcorn
  • carrots
  • raw apples
  • tomatoes
  • spicy foods

This is not an all-inclusive list, but is a short list intended to help you prepare for your surgery.

A Word From VeryWell

Remember that while there is really nothing that you can't eat following a tonsillectomy, you may want to initially eat or drink foods that are cold and soft. Avoiding foods that are hard, sharp, spicy or hot, may also help your level of comfort. If nausea isn't a problem, live it up and enjoy as many of the cold soft foods you would typically enjoy in life to help reduce the level of pain you experience. Items like ice cream or popsicles will help sooth your sore throat while also helping you stay hydrated.

It is very important to stay hydrated after having your tonsils removed, which can be difficult if you don't want to swallow due to a sore throat. It is recommended to sip on a cold drink throughout the day to help prevent dehydration. Call your doctor if you have signs of dehydration such as having dry eyes or skin, or cola-colored urine.

Sources:

Lescanne, E, Chiron, B, Constant, I, Couloigner, V, Fauroux, B, Hassani, Y ... Viot, A (2012). Pediatric tonsillectomy: Clinical practice guidelines. http://clinicalkey.com (Subscription Required)

Messner, AH, Isaacson, GC & Armbsby, C. (2016). Tonsillectomy (with or without adenoidectomy) in children: Postoperative care and complications. http://www.uptodate.com (Subscription Required)

Millington, AJ, Gaunt, AC & Phillips, JS. (2016). Post-tonsillectomy dietary advice: systematic review. J Laryngol Otol. 130(10):889-892.

Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy Post-Op. American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery website. http://www.entnet.org/content/tonsillectomy-and-adenoids-postop Updated 2017. Accessed June 19, 2017.

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