12 Year Old Tonsillectomy Experience

As of today, it’s been one week since my 12 year old had her tonsillectomy. I hope that sharing her experience will help other parents who have a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy planned. Of course, this isn’t medical advice, instead a mother’s retelling of what my daughter has been through before, during and after this surgery.

One thing I’ve learned is that although a tonsillectomy is a very quick procedure (hers took about 15 minutes), there can be a long recover period. Recovery depends on how your child tolerates pain, the age of your child and the amount of swelling that occurs after the procedure among other things. Since my daughter is 12, she is closer to a teenager, who can often have a longer and more painful recover period.

Choosing A Doctor

We decided on a doctor who only works with pediatric patients. The ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) office has a number of doctors and nurses on staff and was recommended by two of our daughter’s doctors. We felt comfortable with the doctor from the first visit. He took time to answer all of our questions and those of my daughter’s. Her other medical issues were taken seriously and all notes from other specialists were contacted either via phone or medical notes. We met with the nurse who scheduled the procedure and she took the time to go over the details again. We were able to ask questions by phone up to the day of the procedure and never felt like we were bothering anyone.

Tonsillectomy Information

Preparing for the Tonsillectomy

We received information from the ENT office for my daughter and for me to read and their website which has special sections for children and parents. Since my daughter would be staying overnight at the hospital, because of her medical problems, we also had use of the hospital website. Of course, I talked to my daughter about what was coming up and let her talk about her fears and concerns.

Pre-Op Room Waiting for Tonsillectomy

The Day of the Procedure

Because of my daughter’s age, she was one of the last ones to have her procedure done. Although she couldn’t eat any solids after midnight, she could have clear liquids up to 3 hours before the tonsillectomy. Thank goodness, she slept in that day as we were scheduled to be at the hospital at 1:15 PM. She was nervous, so we had movies, books and video games ready for her. She slept again during the ride to the hospital. Once we arrived, the staff took over and helped to calm her fears. We were able to stay with her all the way up to the Operating Room doors.

The hospital is child friendly and had a television in the pre-op room. All of the staff spoke nicely to my daughter and answered all of her questions. When she began to cry, the nurse was there in a flash to help her. She did not get an IV until after she was sleepy from an anesthetic she breathed in through a mask.

After the Tonsillectomy

The doctor spoke to us right after the tonsillectomy to let us know that everything went well. Then we waited to be called into the recovery room. Once there, we found our daughter talking, which surprised us, until we learned that she had been given morphine. She was in a panic though and was confused. One nurse was with her throughout the recovery period and explained what was happening to us. After about 10 minutes, she calmed down, but was very nauseous. She began to hyperventilate and the oxygen mask was put near her, not over her mouth. Soon, she vomited, which caused her to hurt a lot. More morphine was given.

The worst complaints within the first 4 t0 6 hours after the procedure were pain and nausea. She wasn’t able to explain where the pain was. A different type of pain medication was given and medication to help with the nausea. She was able to eat part of a popsicle. Later that night, she needed help to use the bathroom because she was dizzy and weak. She was also able to drink some milk with very softened graham crackers. She awoke many times during the night due to pain.

The Next Day

Her ability to speak worsened as the swelling in her mouth and throat grew. There was more pain in her throat as well. Because she wasn’t drinking or eating as much as she should, she spent the day at the hospital. She was miserable. Nothing made her happy. Her pain medication was changed again and she finally ate some ice cream and drank water and milk. We were able to get her prescriptions filled at the hospital and we were on our way home.

The Days After the Tonsillectomy

As the days went on, ear pain and neck pain began. Inside her mouth was swollen and she had a fever which ran from about 100 – 101. The doctor’s office was in touch with us and increased the amount of the pain medicine which included a fever reducer. We gave her medicine every four hours to prevent the pain from catching up on her. I used my cell phone alarm to remind me. We didn’t wake her for her medicine, but she did have a few nights that she woke up and needed it. We kept a list of the time and dose of medication, the time that she used the bathroom and any new symptoms she had.

Another surprising thing that has been occurring is that my daughter has been much more emotional, even crying. We were told that this is common for older children and adults. And crying causes more pain. This makes it difficult for me as a mother. I try to comfort her, but there doesn’t seem to be much I can do to help her.

Common Symptoms

  • A stuffy nose is another common complaint. Have lots of tissues ready and encourage your child to blow her nose.
  • Expect bad breath! It’s awful, and even brushing teeth won’t help. It is necessary to have your child brush their teeth though.
  • Ear pain
  • Weakness and lack of energy
  • Sleepiness – can be due to pain medications
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Fever

What We Hope for the Future

During the tonsillectomy, the doctor also did a sinus culture. We’re waiting on those results to see another reason, besides allergies that she is constantly congested. After she is fully recovered from this procedure, my daughter will undergo another sleep study and perhaps a nap study to determine if the diagnosis of narcolepsy is correct,  if another sleep disorder will be diagnosed or if the removal of the large tonsils will improve her sleeping.

Has your child or have you as an adult had a tonsillectomy? What was your experience?

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Connie Roberts

Professional Blogger
Living in the Tampa Bay area, I'm lucky enough to see beautiful sunsets almost every day. Although life can be difficult at times, focusing on the positive and being with my family is what gets me through.

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  1. Oh my goodness! I had no idea they were that painful. I’m so sorry she had to go through that. However, I’ve said (wrote) it a thousand times and I’ll do it again, your daughter really is so lucky to have you. 🙂
    Lindsay wrote this fabulous post..Chicken Soup for the Soul Just for Preteens Book #GiveawayMy Profile

    • Oh Lindsay, you’re making me blush 🙂 I can’t help but love her to pieces. She’s much better as I write this. Off of the pain meds and eating us out of house and home. Can’t ask for more than that!

  2. I have only known a couple of people lately that have even had their tonsils out, it doesn’t seem as if they do it as much as they used to. One of the women I knew had alot of problems with congestion and sinus issues that just wouldnt clear up and they took hers finally.

    Back in the 60s, they took everyones tonsils out- honestly everyone I know has had them out least in our area. I was pretty young, and I think I posted here that myself and 2 brothers all had them done at the same time – I was maybe 8 or 9 which would have made my youngest brother only 4 or 5 I remember he was put in a crib type hospital bed. All I recall is being very hoarse and having a sore throat for less than a week although I recall milking it to get ice cream longer. Another brother had both tonsils and adenoids out not too long before we had ours done. I also had asthma as a child but there was no concern apparently at having my tonsils out. I dont remember having an attack or anything because of the operation or having one afterwards because of it.

    I hope Sammi recovers quickly and am also hoping this may help with her sleeping. I wonder why crying is more common the older you are? I hope she gets well soon- she has a good Mom and couldn’t be better taken care of !

    • Love that you took advantage of the situation, Ellen! More ice-cream for you!! About being more emotional, the nurse said that it’s most likely because of those good old hormones. Thanks for the compliment! She’s my sweetie pie. Don’t tell her I said that though 😉

  3. I had my tonsils out over Christmas break when I was 19. I don’t remember much, other than puking when I was getting up to use the bathroom. I remember my consult. The drive to the hospital and to park the car actually took longer than the visit. I opened my mouth, the doctor took one look and said, “Yup. They need to come out.”

    When I was in grade school/high school, I was sick at least once a year with strep or something. My tonsils were kissing and I snored badly. I don’t remember being more emotional, but I do know that it affected my speech somewhat. My “L’s” sound different to me now.

    My nephew had his tonsils out at a fairly young age and he’s eating and sleeping better. I wish that I’d push for my son’s tonsils to be taken the 2nd time he had tubes put in. They only took his adenoids. I believe that if his tonsils would come out, he’d sleep and behave better.

    I hope Sammi recovers and that it helps get the answers you want.
    Emily wrote this fabulous post..Thursday 13: 13 Kindle books Part 3My Profile

    • I think it was easier to get a doctor to agree to a tonsillectomy a number of years ago. We had to wait too long for an approval. That’s awful that your son had his adenoids out but not his tonsils. So much for him to go through another surgery. Hope it all goes well for you both, Emily.

  4. I’m glad to hear your daughter is on the mend. Love this post. I have never had a tonsillectomy and neither have my children, but this post is a good one to read for anyone preparing a child for a surgical procedure.
    MusingsfromMe/Jill wrote this fabulous post..The Hecks Are Just Like Me! @TheMiddle_ABCMy Profile

    • Thanks, Jill. I’m going to write a follow up and add some more pointers that we learned along the way again! It seemed like it was never-ending, but she’s doing much better now.

  5. When Dylan had his tonsils and adnoids out he was recovering pretty quickly or so we thought…. until two weeks later when it came time for the scabs to fall off as it was healing. He had more discomfort those last few days than he did at any other point in the process. He only used his pain meds twice, once the day of the surgery before he went to bed and then nothing like that at all for two weeks until the scabs started to fall in (which is totally gross)
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    • Oh crud Loretta! I didn’t say a word to her about the scabs. One of her friends told her about them though and she is freaking out now. She keeps looking at her throat in the mirror. I wanna run away before it happens!

      • That was the worst part of the whole thing for Dylan (and for me LOL) He was so uncomfortable and grossed out and there wasn’t anything I could do to help.

  6. Wow Connie, your little one went through so much. I wonder if she was younger for this procedure if it would make a difference. You are such a great mom and love the article, well done..
    Cheryl wrote this fabulous post..Letter to My Wife – Email Gone WrongMy Profile

    • Yes, Cheryl. It would have been easier for her if she were younger. And if she could have had the stuff to help with nausea before surgery. She’s limited on a lot of meds because of the heart issues she has. I’m glad you liked the post. Um, I’m a loving mom, not sure about good 🙂

  7. This was a great breakdown. I am bookmarking it since it seems like my friends’ kids are hitting that age where they go through this.
    Kate, aka guavalicious wrote this fabulous post..National Vodka Day : Moon Mountain Harvest HiBallMy Profile

    • I searched all over for information on this for a tween. So i figured I’d write it up to help someone else out. Thanks for bookmarking it Kate.

  8. I hope she keeps feeling better. All I heard is that the older you are the more painful it is. Thanks for posting all the information. So helpful.

  9. Earlier this year, my friend’s 4 year old son had both his tonsils and adenoids removed. I was with them at the surgery center, recovery room and then at home with them for the first 6 hours. The surgeon said his adenoids were the largest she has ever seen! Matthew tolerated surgery well…much better than his mom did LOL! The nursing staff at the surgery center were wonderful and very informative. No one in my immediate family has had their tonsils removed so I didn’t know what to expect and I was there to support the family and pay attention to all the directions given by the medical staff since mom and dad were too emotionally involved.

    I hope this surgery brings Sammi some relief. It has helped Matthew sleep much better.
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  10. I had a tonsillectomy when I was 4. I dont remember much about the experience except that I had my Kid Sister doll with me and everything the dr gave me they gave her too hahaha. I’m glad to hear Sammi is off the meds now and back to eating good.
    Shanaka wrote this fabulous post..Kid Friendly #Halloween Drink Recipes Using #ClearAmerican Flavored Beverage #Ad #CBiasMy Profile

  11. Thank you for info. My son is 10 and having surgery in week. I am very nervous… can someone explain more about the scabbing part?

  12. oh that’s heartbreaking that she cries. good thing the staff is understanding.
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  13. Oh Connie I am sorry I have been so wrapped up in my own stuff that I didn’t know that she had gone ahead and had the surgery. I am sorry she felt so miserable afterwards. Let her know that we are thinking of her and that Ashton says hello 🙂
    BIG Hugs to you guys!
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  14. I had mine out when I was 5 so I don’t remember. But she and you are troopers!

  15. This is great to read my daughter is 12 and just had hers out. Tween info isn’t all that out there. If you have any updates I’d love to hear theme. We are on day 4 currently. She is in pain but it hasn’t been horrible and so far has slept through each night.


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