What Can I Eat After a Tonsillectomy?

Ice cream sundae.
Ice cream sundae. Paul Moore/Getty Images

What To Expect After Surgery

A tonsillectomy and an adenoidectomy generally takes about 30 to 45 minutes in the operating room (OR). When returning from the OR, you will still be sedated, but you will be able to awakened soon after returning to the recovery room. It is common to have a sore throat when you wake up. Your nurse will monitor your pain and give you pain medication if needed. 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. This are just general estimates of course as everyone's body is different and we all recover at our own rate of time. The most common complaint following surgery is throat pain that can impair your ability to eat.

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 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.

Food Choices To Minimize Pain

As long as you're not sick to your stomach, here are some good suggestions of things to eat and drink after your surgery:

  • ice cream
  • popsicles
  • juice
  • pudding
  • mashed potatoes
  • jello
  • soft pasta
  • applesauce
  • other cold foods or drinks

Food Choices to Avoid to Minimize Pain

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

This is not an all-inclusive list, but is a short list intended to help you prepare for your surgery. In general, you want foods or drinks that are cold, do not contain chunks of food, and do not contain spices. 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 will help sooth your sore throat.

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. I recommend sipping on a cold drink throughout the day and call your doctor if you have signs of dehydration such as little urine, dry eyes or skin, or no tears in your eyes.

Sources:

American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. (2015). Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy Post-Op. Accessed on May 30, 2016 from http://www.entnet.org/content/tonsillectomy-and-adenoids-postop

Lescanne, E., Chiron, B., Constant, I., Couloigner, V., Fauroux, B., Hassani, Y. ... Viot, A. (2012). Pediatric tonsillectomy: Clinical practice guidelines. Accessed on May 30, 2016 from http://clinicalkey.com (Subscription Required)

Messner, A.H., Isaacson, G.C. & Armbsby, C. (2016). Tonsillectomy (with or without adenoidectomy) in children: Postoperative care and complications. Accessed on May 30, 2016 from http://www.uptodate.com (Subscription Required)

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