The Low-down on Surgery
If your child has a tonsillectomy, chances are the surgeon will remove the adenoids too. That's because if large or infected tonsils are causing problems, then the adenoids usually are as well. But the reverse doesn't hold true: If the adenoids are troublesome (causing ear infections, for example), the tonsils might not be. And because the recovery time for tonsil removal is longer, doctors will usually leave tonsils alone during an adenoidectomy.
After surgery, a natural scab will form over the site. So watch for bleeding that occurs within the first two weeks of surgery—that's a sign the scab isn't forming properly. Keeping your child hydrated will help keep the mucous lining moist and prevent the scab from drying up and falling off prematurely.
Give your child plenty of liquids and offer her soft foods like pudding or Jell-O. "Scratchy" foods like toast or crackers can irritate her throat, so hold off on those. And skip hot drinks too.
Kids can be in a significant amount of pain for up to ten days post-op, so medicate accordingly. A new study from the University of California, Irvine, shows that many parents don't do this—even though 86 percent of parents described their child's pain as significant and their physician had encouraged them to use prescription acetaminophen with codeine. Almost a quarter of kids got either no medication or just one dose in their first day at home and three or fewer doses in the entire two weeks after surgery. But being pain-free can reduce the risk of complications, says study coauthor Zeev Kain, M.D. There's no need to fear that your child will become dependent on the drug.
After the doctor's sure your child is healed from the surgery (healing can take up to two weeks), keep her active while maintaining a healthy diet. "Kids with very large tonsils can't breathe well through their nose, and that affects their sense of taste," explains Brian Wiatrak, M.D. "After having surgery, they can eat more easily and smell and taste food better." If your child was overweight to begin with (possibly contributing to sleep apnea), it's important to keep this in mind.
Originally published in the March 2010 issue of Parents magazine.
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