Tonsillectomy Side Effects

Updated February 21, 2017

Tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the tonsils from the back of the throat. When a person suffers enlarged, swollen or painful tonsils and chronic tonsillitis which will not clear up after antibiotic treatment, an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy. The procedure is among the most common surgeries. Kids who experience seven significant tonsil infections in a year or five in each of two consecutive years are likely candidates for a tonsillectomy. Complications following a tonsillectomy are typically negligible if the surgeon's instructions are followed.


After a tonsillectomy, the inside of the mouth, as well as the exterior (face, neck and jaw), will be swollen. To reduce swelling, use an ice pack on your throat every 30 to 45 minutes or as needed. Expect to be swollen for up to two weeks after surgery. If you swelling lasts beyond two weeks, contact the doctor who performed your surgery.


A tonsillectomy is a quick procedure (lasting approximately 45 minutes) but the pain associated with the surgery can last for weeks. Swallowing may be excruciatingly painful, like trying to gulp burning water. The pain is generally isolated in the throat area but may extend into the jaw for a day or two following surgery.

Expect moderate to severe pain for at least two days to a week after surgery. Your doctor can prescribe pain medication to alleviate discomfort and help you to relax so you can sleep. If you are still experiencing pain after two weeks, call your doctor. The incisions where your tonsils were removed may not be healing properly.

Difficulty Eating and Swallowing

In the two weeks following your surgery you may have extreme discomfort when attempting to chew or swallow food. Eating any type of hot, cooked food could aggravate the open wound in the back of your throat that is attempting to scab over and heal itself. Stick to a diet of cold items like milkshakes, ice cream and Jell-O until you are able to swallow without severe pain. Smaller portions and softer foods eaten slowly will ease the pain and allow your body to heal faster.


There will be an open wound in your mouth after the tonsillectomy, so oral bleeding is normal. Expect to see blood on your tongue, lips, teeth or anywhere inside your mouth for two to seven days after surgery. If you attempt to eat foods which require intensive chewing (like a steak), you will probably experience more bleeding than if eating puréed vegetables or a fruit smoothie. Contact your doctor if you still experience bleeding a week after surgery; it may be a sign that your wounds are not scabbing over properly.


Smoking will make tonsillectomy side effects worse and should be avoided. Do not exercise after the surgery for several days. Also, avoid crowded areas or being around many people for a week or two to avoid the risk of infection. Spicy foods and acidic fruits (like oranges) can cause complications and should be avoided for at least two weeks to reduce the risk of a burning sensation and discomfort in the throat.

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About the Author

James Clark began his career in 1985. He has written about electronics, appliance repair and outdoor topics for a variety of publications and websites. He has more than four years of experience in appliance and electrical repairs. Clark holds a bachelor's degree in political science.