Tonsillectomy survival tips and grocery list?
April 12, 2006 10:20 PM   Subscribe

Tonsillectomy survival tips and grocery list?

I'm 32 and having my tonsils and adenoids out next week and getting my uvula "shortened" to hopefully cure my sleep apnea. Apparently the procedure is a little rougher on adults than I was led to believe, because I distinctly remember Cindy Brady just eating some ice cream and she was back playing with Tiger by the end of the episode.

But she was a child with better ability to recover, and it was on the teevee.

My ENT said to expect a 2 week recovery period, and I'd like to hear from anyone their (positive! uplifting!) experiences after having their tonsils out in adulthood. Horror stories will not help me, unless you learned something that you could have done to prevent them. I'd also appreciate any suggestions on grocery food and items I should have in the house while I'm recovering.

So far:

* I've heard varying degrees on pain reports, with the most extreme being "This will be the most painful thing you will experience in your adult life." So I'm trying to mentally prepare for the worst, so I can be relieved if it turns out slightly better. Sort of like when I went to go see the new Star Wars movies.

* Drink as much water as you can, avoid acidic drinks. You'll probably subsist on crushed ice the first couple of days. Also chew gum (presumably to keep saliva flowing?)

* You can graduate to soft foods that don't need to be chewed when you're done with ice. I'm thinking SlimFast shakes?

* Apparently you're NOT supposed to eat ice cream (thanks Cindy) or anything else with sugar as it can lead to infection.

* You'll lose weight, up to 10-15 pounds (yay)

I've heard some other hindsight-is-20/20 tips as well, like asking for lidocaine spray or gargle to help with pain.

Anything else?
posted by wubbie to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My mom had her uvula out which did cure her sleep apnea.

Popsicles, popsicles, popsicles. She wasn't told not to eat them! Ask for anti-nausea drugs... anesthesia can make you nauseous and I don't imagine vomiting with a raw throat is any fun!

Soft foods can include mashed potatoes, applesauce, yogurt, broth... heck, after my wisdom teeth came out, I lived on spaghettios... you really don't need to chew them much if at all!
posted by IndigoRain at 12:24 AM on April 13, 2006

**nauseated, not nauseous. Drat.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:25 AM on April 13, 2006

I had my tonsils out 2years ago when I was 24. First of all, it does really REALLY suck. But not as bad as having tonsilitis for the rest of your life.

They put me on morphine and wouldn't up my dose until I ate a little bit of something. I found that yogurt and Mullerice (Rice pudding stuff that you can heat up a little) was excellent. Nothing with too many bits, but any bisque or liquid soup is good. Avoid citrus like the plague. Dairy does increase phlegm, but it was the only thing I could deal with.

As for recovery time, 2 weeks is about right but it is a crap 2 weeks. I mean, really really crap. But after that, you do get better fast.

Do you live in the UK? You need loads of trash (Chat, Our house) mags to get you through the experience. Hope you feel better soon!
posted by katiecat at 2:59 AM on April 13, 2006

Definitely a 2 week recovery period. (I got them out when I was 22.)

I liked dairy, too. Milkshakes were good. I think the key is to keep yourself on your pain meds constantly as long as you're needing them. If you're taking it every 8 hours, for example, but you feel fine at the end of 8 hours, still take another dose--likely you'll start hurting soon after that, and it's much easier to swallow something when you've got painkillers on board than when you don't.

You just have to force yourself to stay hydrated. It's hard to do; you won't even want to take ice chips.

Highly recommended to have friends or family or significant others help take care of you if possible.

DVDs, magazines, anything to just get your mind off your throat.
posted by gramcracker at 6:56 AM on April 13, 2006

Well, most of what I have are horror stories from getting 'em out at 22. Lots of mushy smoothies helped me, as well as assloads of pain meds. Don't have sex— you can rupture the stitching. I liked steamed vegetables, especially broccoli. Video games help a lot when you're bored of TV. I found that i was usually too medicated to read for any long period of time. And predicting your pain needs is IMPORTANT.
posted by klangklangston at 8:56 AM on April 13, 2006

I had my tonsils out about 6 months ago, at age 30.

Here's the 3 things I wish would have been clearer to me.

1. The pain/inflammation peaks on about the 3rd day. I remember thinking after I woke up from the operation that "this isn't so bad; I might be able to go into work tomorrow." The thing is, the minor pain then became worse and worse as the days went on. It was pain like I'd never felt before when swallowing saliva, never mind water, Ensure or Jamba Juice, which were really the only other things I could tolerate.

2. My scabs came off on day 5. That was FREAKY! My mouth filled with blood, and I ran to the bathroom sink and started spitting out insanely thick, mucous-like blood. I couldn't believe the volume, and I didn't know when it would stop. And then, as suddenly as it had started, the blood stopped coming. And my throat felt amazingly better. This actually happened twice, once for each scab. When both scabs were off, swallowing was much easier and much more comforatable. I was still eating soft foods for a few days, but I was able to back off on the pain medicine, which made life much easier.

3. Ensure and Jamba Juice are the only things I could eat. And yeah, stay hydrated.
posted by u2604ab at 9:07 AM on April 13, 2006

I had a uvulectomy a month ago, also for sleep apnea, and was told the same stuff beforehand about how I'd be in fantastic pain and unable to eat and have a hard time staying hydrated. In fact, though, it wasn't that bad. I stopped the Vicodin after the first day and just took over-the-counter Aleve. It certainly hurt to swallow, but I had little problem eating yogurt and pudding and chowder and scrambled eggs - not 2000 Kcals worth, and I lost maybe 5 pounds, but enough that I was never terribly hungry.

I found that protein drinks and Ensure shakes were quite painful, and anything fizzy was bad; tea and water were about all I wanted to drink. I went through a few boxes of Cepacol sore-throat lozenges which helped a lot.

I stocked up on ice cream but then didn't eat any. Extremes of temperature really don't feel good.

One thing I was told that was true: the pain doesn't subside day-to-day, it hurts about the same for about ten days, then one day it stops and you can eat solid food no problem.

Even after the pain abates, you'll find that sitting in some positions lets mucous and saliva drip down into your airway which makes you cough - don't panic, this gets better as you heal.

You'll probably be given perixode to gargle, which is nasty. Do it anyway, it's important to prevent infection, and alcohol-based mouthwashes like Listerine would be agonizing.

Now, you're having more surgery than I did, but hopefully the pain won't be much worse. I'm scheduled for a followup sleep study in a couple of weeks but I've been told I'm barely snoring and choking much less often. Good luck!
posted by nicwolff at 9:24 AM on April 13, 2006

My experience a few years ago (at 20) was similar to all of the above, except maybe for u2604ab's blood thing -- I had no blood whatsoever. In fact, while they advised me to eat a fair amount of popsicles (they didn't say anything about sugar being bad), they told me not to eat the red ones as the dye could mask the presence of any blood, which they said was a bad thing. If a stitch/cauterization opens, the blood can be directed down your throat and you might not even be aware of it. If left unchecked, you can lose quite a bit of blood that way -- and if I'm not mistaken, a large quantity of blood in one's stomach usually leads to vomiting.

I was given liquid codeine as a pain med (easier to take than pills, especially in the first few days), but for safe measure my doc gave me some anti-nausea medication in case the narcotics made me ill. I didn't end up having to take any, but vomiting is something you should really avoid.

As for the pain: for a few hours after my surgery it wasn't so bad, because the anaesthesia was still working. I do recall that the sides of my tongue were quite tender -- probably from some tool that was holding it down against my bottom teeth. That night was probably the worst for me: my uvula hadn't been removed or altered and, as everything in the back of my throat was inflamed from the surgery, I felt like I was gagging/choking on it. But it got better -- probably I ate some ice or a popsicle.

All in all, the pain was quite manageable. I was in college at the time, and it was over winter break, so I took the full two weeks but probably would have been close to fine in less time than that. And the pain was nothing like the >6 months prior to my tonsillectomy, when my tonsils were so swollen they were touching on some days, and on those days I had to take tylenol 3 just to eat broth. I think that, pre-op, they overplay the pain so that people are expecting worse and are pleasantly (for lack of a better word) surprised. I mean, yeah, it hurt -- but it wasn't the end of the world.

One final suggestion: if you're hopped up on narcotics, DO NOT try to read Pynchon.
posted by penchant at 10:16 AM on April 13, 2006

I was 11 when I had my tonsils out. Icy cold pear nectar was my salvation as I didn't care for ice cream nor popsicles so much.
posted by Lynsey at 3:03 PM on April 13, 2006

How prescient. I had mine out about a month ago (29yo). It was among the most sustained pain I've experienced, but, although uncomfortable to the max, you survive. Some thoughts:

Water, water, water, water, water, water, water. All the time, even when you don't want to, even when it HURTS like hell to swallow, because it will make the "hurts like hell" go away faster. I could always tell from the encroaching pain when I was getting dehydrated or needed more fluids. Two gallons or more a day, if you can manage it.

I did not have ANY issues with massive blood loss. I'm sure I bled down the back of my throat, but I didn't notice it. When my scabs came off, it was truly disgusting - you'll find your throat muscles squeegeeing the most foul-smelling white chunks off the back of your throat - and that part was honestly even worse than the pain. Your breath will stink like holy hell for a few days to a week around that time.

Sleep is difficult. I found the best method was to sleep sitting upright with three or four pillows to make myself comfortable. You want to do this to keep the drainage going in the direction it's supposed to. Even so, I think I slept a maximum of three to four hours at a time. I watched a lot, a lot, a lot of movies during this time - always try to have something handy to distract yourself from the general suckiness. I bought a stack of fresh new books, had a friend run me the day's newspapers, and either rented or downloaded a bunch of fun but noncommittal movies and TV shows. You don't want anything that's too much 'brain food,' in my experience - the drugs will make it hard to concentrate, and I think the pleasantness of dumb entertainment can help to soothe the soul.

If there is any, the fun of stumbling around in a drug-induced haze wears off fast. I started off bored, then started to go crazy from isolation, and from not being able to talk. Ask friends to stop by and keep you company, even if you have to communicate by paper or not talk at all. By the end of two weeks, I started to feel like a non-person from being so cooped up and out-of-it on drugs.

Some people say dairy is problematic after this operation, but I'm even lactose-intolerant and had no issue with shoveling down the stuff. I suppose if you're super-concerned about infections, then so be it, but my personal experience involved a fair ton of cold, sugary, dairy-inclusive stuff, and it only made my life more pleasurable. Caveats etc etc.

Remember that this is a serious and intrusive medical operation that is traumatic to the affected area. Your body will be working overtime, even after the pain is gone, to deal with the fact that it is now missing parts. Expect to be very sleepy and lethargic even when the rest of you feels "fine," and give yourself the extra few days to take it easy if you can. Jumping right back into your crazy daily routine would lead to worse problems than a simple dish of ice cream, if you're thinking about infections or complications.

You will, after two weeks, never want to see a jar of apple sauce or a bowl of instant mashed potatoes ever again.

But, after all is said and done, you'll be thrilled to think of the nights you WON'T be spending ever again with your throat the size of a life raft.
posted by mykescipark at 5:17 PM on April 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

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