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Tonsils and adenoids

What are tonsils and adenoids? What do they do?

Adenoids are lymph tissue at the back of your nose at the top of your throat. Tonsils are lymph nodes at the back of your mouth, one on each side. The lymph system is part of the germ fighting system in your body.

Your tonsils' and adenoids' job is to "eat" dirt and germs.

What happens when they don't work right?

When the tonsils or adenoids eat too many germs but don't kill them all, they get infected. This makes them swollen. When your tonsils are swollen, it's hard to swallow. When your adenoids are swollen, it's hard to breathe through your nose.

If this happens too much, your doctor might need to take them out.

How are they removed?

Since your nose and mouth are connected in the back, your doctor can reach in through your mouth to remove your tonsils and adenoids. You'll get medicine to make you sleep during the operation so you won't feel anything.

After they're removed

You'll have a sore throat after your doctor removes your tonsils or adenoids. It will hurt less if he removes just the adenoids. When you wake up from the special sleep, a nurse will ask you to drink some water.

It might hurt at first to drink water; but the more sips you take, the less it hurts. Also, tell your nurse if it hurts, and you'll get some medicine to make it hurt less.

Sometimes, after your tonsils and adenoids have been taken out, you might feel sick in your tummy, or you might throw up. That is normal after this operation.

The nurse might also put an ice collar on your neck to help it hurt less.

Other parts of your body will take over the job of your tonsils and adenoids, so you won't miss them.

Going home

You'll go home when your doctor thinks you're ready. This might be the same day as your operation, or it might be the next morning. Before you can go home, it is important that you drink lots of fluids.

At home, your throat will hurt less and less each day, until it doesn't hurt at all. Eating ice cream and drinking lots of water and juice can help it stop hurting sooner.

General instructions for parents

It's normal for your child to have a sore throat after a tonsillectomy or an adenoidectomy. This will hurt less each day. It's also normal for your child to have a mild earache. You may give him acetaminophen (Tylenol) every three to four hours for pain. Follow the instructions on the label for the exact dosage. An ice collar or cold compress to the neck may also help relieve the pain.

From the fifth to the tenth day, the area where the tonsils and adenoids were removed might start bleeding if the "scabs" fall off. Please call your doctor's office if this happens or if you have any questions or problems.

For the first few days after surgery, it's normal for your child to have a slight temperature — up to 101°F. Call your doctor if gets higher than 101°F. You may give your child acetaminophen for slight fever.

Bad mouth odor is normal for several days. Having your child drink plenty of fluids helps.

What can my child eat after surgery?

First day — Lots of water, juice, soda, popsicles, gelatin, cool soup, ice cream, milkshakes and Gatorade. Don't serve hot drinks or citrus juice (orange, grapefruit) — they'll make the throat burn.

Second day — Gradually, add soft foods such as pudding, mashed potatoes, apple sauce and cottage cheese. Do not give hot or spicy foods.

Third day —- Gradually, add normal foods your child can eat comfortably. Don't give hot or rough foods such as raw vegetables, potato chips, dry toast or crackers until two weeks after surgery.

What should my child avoid after surgery?

Don't give aspirin or medicines that have aspirin in them (such as Alka Seltzer), because it can cause bleeding.

Discourage your child from coughing, screaming, clearing her throat or blowing his nose.

Don't let your child gargle or brush his/her teeth too hard.

When should I call the doctor?

Call your doctor if your child:

  • begins bleeding from the nose or mouth.
  • has a temperature over 101°F.
  • has severe, constant pain not relieved by Tylenol.
  • vomits too much.
  • refuses to drink fluids.

From the Parent/Patient Education Series
Holmes Regional Medical Center Pediatric Services

Peds: Pt Ed 8. Revised 4/98, 6/00.