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My Experience: What to Expect From an Adult Tonsillectomy

As a child and young adult, Brittany suffered from recurring tonsillitis. She finally had a tonsillectomy at the age of 22.

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Most people have their tonsils taken out as children, but occasionally, an adult ends up requiring the surgery. People always say that's better to get your tonsils taken out as a child; this is mostly because adults tend to experience more complications from the surgery and during the recovery. Sometimes, however, an adult tonsillectomy is necessary.

Here's what you may face when going in for the surgery, as well as how to cope with the aftermath.

Warning: This article contains somewhat graphic images of tonsils. They are SFW, but perhaps not safe for a queasy person!

Pre-Surgery: Should I Get My Tonsils Removed?

Really, I would only recommend getting your tonsils removed if you have to. If you're frequently getting sore throats or tonsilitis, then it's something to look into.

In my early twenties, I got sick all of the time. I worked in an elementary school, so every time one of the kids got sick, their germs spread pretty fast and I'd get sick too. I was constantly getting colds, sore throats, strep, and tonsillitis. I also had a lot of problems with snoring (and even breathing, occasionally), due to the size of my tonsils.

My tonsillitis was so bad that I started to get these little white balls in the back of my throat called "tonsilloliths" (or tonsil stones). They were painful and they also made my breath smell really bad when I had them. I used to pick them out of my tonsils (gross, I know) and get rid of them, but after a few years of doing that, I noticed that my tonsils were filled with holes.

I really got tired of being sick all the time, having tonsilloliths, and being in pain, so I decided it was time to see my doctor about my tonsils.

How To Plead Your Case To Your Doctor

Most doctors are still against administering a tonsillectomy to adults. I first asked for a tonsillectomy at 19, and my doctor flat-out refused. Many adults will go through the same experience, as the surgery can be risky, and recovery is quite painful. However, if you're already suffering from 3-4 bouts of strep throat per year, it'd be worth it to just have your tonsils out altogether.

When I finally got approved for my tonsillectomy, I actually consulted my dentist about the matter. My dentist then sent me to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor), and after taking one quick look at my tonsils (which, by that point were just riddled with holes from the tonsilloliths), he agreed that I needed to have them taken out.

Again, a doctor, dentist, or ENT would probably only approve an adult for a tonsillectomy if their tonsils are in really bad condition and/or the patient has had repeated bouts of strep throat. But if you know you want your tonsils out for a good reason, then I'd recommend being persistent and even seeing a different doctor until you can find one that will do the surgery for you.

Even though I was 22 at the time, which is generally considered to be "too old" for a tonsillectomy, my doctor assured me that I would benefit more from having them taken out than I would if I kept them in.

Recovery Tips

  • Take plenty of time off work to recover.
  • Try to eat gentle foods that won't aggravate your scabs.
  • You may be in a lot of pain; that's fairly normal. But alert your doctor if the pain is unbearable.
  • Rest, drink lots of liquids, and always stay on top of your medicine dosages.
  • It may take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to recover.
  • If you experience any difficulties or an abnormal amount of bleeding post-op, please call your doctor.

My Tonsillectomy Experience

About a month before my 23rd birthday, I went in and had my tonsils removed.

Of course, I don't remember the actual surgery, as they put me under (I was administered anaesthesia) beforehand. When I woke up, I felt a little bit of pain, but I mostly just felt woozy from the surgery.

I went to stay with my mom for a week while I recovered, and the first few days the pain mostly just felt like a really sore throat. The doctor gave me lots of liquid pain medication (specifically hydrocodone), and I kept to a diet of mostly liquids and popsicles (see table below for more food suggestions).

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I highly recommend staying with a friend or family member during the recovery process, if you live alone. The medicine will make you very drowsy to begin with, and even after you get past sleeping most of the day, you will feel a bit weak and worn down, and will need someone to look after you and help you recover.

Food and Recovery

Things That Are Okay To Eat:Stay Away From These Things:

Cold soups

Anything with a sharp edge (like potato chips)

Jello/gelatin

Ice cream/dairy products (they produce too much phlegm, which makes things more painful)

Popsicles

Alcohol (not only should you not mix alcohol with most pain medication, but it can also cause adverse side-effects which will be painful)

Mashed potatoes

Hard candy/lollies

Chilled porridge/oatmeal

Anything spicy (acid reflux is not your friend!)

Applesauce or pudding

Most "normal" foods, honestly