After surgery, your child will stay in the recovery room until they are awake and can breathe easily, cough, and swallow. Depending on the medical facility, parents and/or caregivers may be allowed in the recovery room. Many patients go home several hours after this surgery. Most children with sleep apnea may be observed in the hospital overnight.
There are some common problems that your child may experience as a result of the procedure. Your child will have a significant amount of pain, especially during the first week. To keep the pain under control, pain medications should be taken on a regular schedule. This pain can be a lot like a bad strep throat infection. During the second week, post-operative pain normally begins to improve slowly with each passing day. By the end of the second week, your child should begin to feel normal.
Your child may also experience ear pain. This can be caused by a phenomenon called “referred” pain. Referred pain is where injury in one area causes pain in another. It’s sometimes hard to tell exactly where the pain is coming from because the areas are so close together. Tell your provider if your child’s ear pain persists for more than a week or if it’s extremely severe.
The uvula may swell up for three or four days after surgery. It can give your child the feeling that there is something constantly in the back of the throat that needs to be swallowed. This is normal. However, if your child experiences difficulty breathing due to the swelling of the area around the surgery, this may be life-threatening if not treated immediately. Your child may also have a low-grade fever for a few days. Notify your provider if it persists or if it goes above 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bleeding can sometimes occur after leaving the hospital. This happens in a small percentage of patients. If they vomit blood, call their provider immediately or go to the nearest emergency room. If your child is constantly swallowing, check the back of the mouth for bleeding. If bleeding does occur, stay calm and immediately go to the nearest emergency room.
In general, strenuous exercise should be restricted for at least two weeks after surgery. Ask your provider for more specific instructions about exercise.
Be sure your child drinks plenty of fluids. It is very important that your child stay well hydrated. They may want to avoid citrus juices or fatty milk products during the first week. Juices that are sour can irritate the raw area where the tonsils used to be. Diluting citrus juices with water can help reduce the irritation. Fatty milk products can leave a thick mucous in the back of the throat that is hard to swallow, but swallowing can improve when followed by water or clear fluids. It’s sometimes recommended that you eliminate rough, crunchy, or spicy foods from your child’s diet until the tonsil area is more fully healed.
Constipation is not unusual after this procedure. Increasing your child’s fluid intake can help with this problem. Another benefit is that drinking a lot of fluids helps to cleanse the back of the throat. Patients who get dehydrated tend to have more problems after surgery than those who stay on top of their fluid intake.
Be sure your child takes all of the medications your healthcare team prescribes. Avoid products that contain aspirin because they interfere with blood clotting. Sometimes it’s recommended that your child gargle gently with lukewarm salt water to cleanse the back of the throat after eating and to help remove any bad taste.