Our Family's Tonsillectomy History
Tonsillectomies are known to have one of the most painful recuperation periods of all surgeries. I have nursed four tonsillectomy surgeries in my family and cared for myself through tonsil removal. Here are post-operative tonsillectomy after-care tips that your surgeon may not tell you.
What to Look For in Tonsillectomy Wound Sites
A tonsillectomy leaves two gaping holes on each side of the throat where tonsils were incised. A healthy post-operative tonsillectomy site should appear white with spots of red as it heals. As our surgeon aptly put it: similar to fruit-on-the-bottom strawberry yogurt. Any blood should appear dark red, turning to rust color as it heals. Any bright red bleeding should be reported to your surgeon immediately. It may not be problematic, but bright red indicates new or break-through bleeding and your doctor should know about it. Any pus should be reported as well.
The Single Most Important Part of Tonsillectomy Healing
Healing with a post-operative tonsillectomy requires lots if hydration. Moist healing is always encouraged over dry healing and never was this more accurate than in a tonsillectomy patient.
It hurts to swallow, but water and fluid will reduce the pain, keep the throat moist and actually reduce recovery time. Despite the pain of swallowing, in a tonsillectomy, the only way to keep that vicious sore throat under control is to drink plenty of fluids.
Fluids can be in any form, but plain water is the best. Carbonated drinks and juices should be avoided as they burn. Caffeinated drinks dehydrate. Milk and dairy drinks create phlegm. Adding effervescent vitamin supplements like Emergen-C provide extra healing nutrients without any stinging ingredients. Pedialyte and Gatorade are good too.
Tonsil Problems Run in the Family
Tonsillectomy Dairy Dilemma
I had my tonsils removed in 1974. Tonsillectomy follow-up care in times past stressed avoiding milk and dairy products to prevent mucus build up. I was promised all the ice cream I could eat, but only given frozen popsicles--what a disappointment!
This traditional wisdom is not part of modern tonsillectomy protocol, however. Doctors allows patients to have dairy if they want. Creamy milk products may be more difficult for the patient to swallow, however. This was our experience. We found ice cream, cheese and milk coated our throats and made us gag.
If you can handle milk products after tonsillectomy, opt for more nourishing dairy products like Greek yogurt and kefir (high in protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber and low in fat). Yogurt also contains acidophilus which helps the body fight off the detrimental effects of anti-biotics. Fermented beverages help ward off infection, too.
Try this power yogurt shake. Blend almond or coconut milk, dissolved Emergen'C, plain Greek yogurt, mashed bananas and blueberries.
Drugs and Antibiotics
Typically a post-operative tonsillectomy patient will be prescribed strong pain medication--Tylenol 3, morphine, codeine, or Vicodin. He'll also get a prescription for antibiotic. Don't skimp on pain relievers. Give the recommended dose. Cutting medication will not increase his tolerance. Pain will escalate to unbearable levels and you'll need to give more to calm it.
Pain medication will likely make him groggy or possibly nauseous. Give medications with food or milk, and never on an empty stomach. Post-operative tonsillectomy patients can usually handle warm (not hot) broth, thin mashed potatoes, Carnation Instant Breakfast, cooked rice, Jell-O, a Popsicle, pudding or melted sherbet. Feed before administering pain medication.
Post-Operative Tonsillectomy Do's and Don'ts
drink lots of water
eat nourishing bland soft foods
eat spicy, hot or crunchy foods
gargle with salt water
let the wound go
Foods to Avoid
Food texture and temperature are to things to be careful of. Post-operative tonsillectomy patients should void hard, crunchy foods (cereal and crackers) foods with sharp edges (chips) and foods that require chewing).
If you are caring for or recovering from a tonsillectomy, you'll hear the inevitable stories about so-and-so who ate potato chips and had no trouble. Ignore this and stick to soft foods. "Can do" something and should do it are not the same thing.
It's also recommended that post-operative tonsillectomy patients be given Popsicles to soothe a sore throat. This is good advice because the frozen food numbs the throat. It's like putting an ice pack directly on the wounds. But I always mash them and let them partially melt. Frozen things can hurt.
Likewise, warm foods like soup and broth also soothe, but be sure to keep food from getting too hot.
Avoid acidic, spicy or hot foods (salsa, tomatoes, fruit). On a raw throat, they feel like fire. Alcohol can have a sedative affect, but should not be consumed with narcotic or Tylenol pain relievers. Also, it can burn.
Emergen-C is a Great Infection Fighter!
Encourage tonsillectomy patients to gargle with warm salt water. You could use Listerine if the patient can stand it. A saline flush helps to clean and health the open wounds in the throat. It helps prevent infection.
Applying an ice pack to reduce swelling helps, also. Liquid lidocaine may be applied or taken orally. This numbs the throat. But it's also very thick and may make the patient feel like he's going to gag. Talk to your doctor.
After Tonsillectomy Surgery, Remember...
- Hydrate! Avoiding drinking because your throat hurts will make the pain worse.
- Eat soft, nourishing foods.
- Gargle with salt water to prevent infection.
- Take your pain medication and antibiotics.
- Boost immunity with non-carbonated, caffeine-free, non-acidic vitamin drinks.
Health Blogs to Help
- Health Help 4u
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