A tonsillectomy can reduce your risk of frequent strep throat or tonsillitis infections and could also improve your breathing. Following your procedure, you should expect scabbing along with slight pain and discomfort.
Tonsillectomy scabs develop on former tonsil tissues as soon as the area stops bleeding. This happens right after surgery before you’re sent home from the hospital.
During your recovery, your scabs will fall off and cause a small amount of discomfort. Read on to find out what to expect and what signs may indicate a complication.
Tonsillectomies are performed at hospitals as outpatient procedures. This means that you won’t have to stay overnight unless there are any complications.
After surgery, you’ll likely have a sore throat for several days. The soreness can get worse before it gradually decreases within 10 days. You’ll initially be tired and may have some leftover grogginess from the anesthesia.
Tonsillectomy scabs form almost immediately. The scabs look like thick white patches at the back of your throat. You should see one on each side on top of the small amounts of tonsil tissue leftover from your surgery.
Other side effects from tonsil removal include:
- bleeding, usually after your scabs fall off
- ear pain
- low-grade fever between 99 and 101°F (37 and 38°C)
- sores around the inside of your mouth and on your tongue
- tongue swelling
- white patches that develop at the back of your throat
- bad breath for up to a few weeks
Bleeding of tonsillectomy scabs is normal as they fall off. There should only be a small amount of blood. You’ll know your bleeding if you see small specks combined with your saliva. The blood will also cause a metallic taste in your mouth.
Instead of swallowing the blood, you or your child should gargle ice water and then spit it out until you’re no longer bleeding.
Call your doctor or pediatrician if you notice more than four tablespoons of blood or if your blood is bright red. You may need to go to the emergency room, especially if you or your child are vomiting.
Bleeding can also occur prematurely when your scabs fall off too soon. You can detect this if you start bleeding from your mouth sooner than five days after surgery. Call your doctor or pediatrician if this is the case.
The scabs can sometimes fall off without warning and are occasionally painful. Bleeding from your mouth is usually the first sign that your scabs have started to dissolve.
The first few days following a tonsillectomy are the most uncomfortable. Your throat will be sore, and you may also have a headache or earache. It’s possible these side effects can be combined with neck pain as well.
Over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help reduce pain. Ask your doctor before using any medications for yourself or your child. Do not take ibuprofen (Advil) as this can increase bleeding. Ice packs placed on your neck or eating ice chips can help alleviate a sore throat.
Fluids are especially important during the first few days after surgery. Water or juice are good options, but avoid sodas. No foods are necessarily off-limits, but a soft foods diet works best to avoid discomfort. You should avoid hard or jagged foods that can aggravate your sore throat or tear at your scabs.
Rest is imperative for the first 48 hours after a tonsillectomy. Your child can go to school once they feel up to it, but vigorous activities, including sports, should be avoided for up to two weeks.
You’ll need to be especially careful around the one-week mark after surgery. Increased activity increases the chance of bleeding from your scabs. You should also avoid looking down for extended periods of time. This can cause blood to pool and break through your scabs.
Tonsillectomy scabs are a normal part of having your tonsils removed. As tonsil wounds heal, the scabs will eventually fall off on their own.
During the recovery process, you may be a bit uncomfortable. The most common side effect is a sore throat, which will likely be at its worst around ten days after surgery. While tonsillectomy scabs can also be painful, they aren’t a typical cause of long-term discomfort.
Call your doctor or pediatrician if you notice excess bleeding, worsening sore throat, or high fever.