How Long Does It Take to Recover From a Tonsillectomy?

If you're planning a tonsillectomy for yourself or your child, you probably want to know how long you should plan to take off from work or school. Since everyone is different, there's no exact answer to the question—your body will heal on its own time.

That said, kids tend to recover in a few days, while it can take adults as long as a couple of weeks to feel better. This, however, can be affected by factors such as how the procedure is performed. Despite these variables, this guidance can help with pre-surgery planning.

tonsillectomy recovery
Verywell / Cindy Chung

Recovery Timeline

The amount of time it takes to recover from a tonsillectomy will depend on many factors, including the surgical method used, your (or your child's) age and overall health, and how closely the healthcare provider's post-operative instructions are followed.

You may have heard that the older you are, the harder it is to recover from a tonsillectomy—and that's true. Different age groups recover at different intervals.

Small children tend to bounce back sooner than everyone else—they usually feel better after a few days. Older kids (ages 5 to 12) can take a few more days. Teens and adults longer still (about two weeks).

One possible reason adults have a tougher recuperation is that the older you are, the harder it can be for the surgeon to remove your tonsils. Scar tissue builds up on them over time, and the more you have, the more difficult it is to remove. This, however, does not fully account for the difference in the postoperative pain and recovery times.

How You Will Feel

Tonsillectomies are usually done as an outpatient procedure, which means patients can go home the day of the surgery. Don't let that fool you into thinking that the next day will have you back to the normal routine, though.

While pain medication will be given to ease discomfort as much as possible, soreness and, possibly, nausea and lack of appetite are to be expected. You or your child will also probably feel tired and want to sleep.

At any age, keep in mind that there's an increased risk of bleeding seven to 10 days after surgery, so you should continue to take it easy until then.

Activity should be limited for two weeks or until your healthcare provider says it's OK. The actual tonsillectomy will take about a year to completely heal.


There are some planned and unplanned circumstances that may require spending the night in the hospital. If you or your child have any complications during surgery, like failure to maintain oxygen levels or bleeding that's difficult to control, you'll be admitted to the hospital.

While these instances are relatively rare, they do occur. When choosing a surgical center, look for one that has hospital-admitting privileges—just in case.

Your healthcare provider will know if you or your child are at increased risk for having complications or require extra monitoring during surgery. Common reasons for a planned post-operative hospitalization include:

  • Children under the age of 3
  • Obstructive sleep apnea that affects other organs
  • A complicated medical history that may require additional monitoring after anesthesia

Returning to Work or School

Your child's healthcare provider will likely recommend that he or she stay home from school for at least one week after being discharged.

When deciding if your child can return to school, ask yourself these questions:

  • Can he or she can eat and drink comfortably on his or her own?
  • Does he or she still need pain medication?
  • Is he or she is getting enough sleep at night?

Depending on the answers, it may be in your child's best interest to stay home a few extra days.

Adults will probably need to take at least 10 days and often two weeks off from work, depending on the type of work they do and how they feel. For example, if you spend a lot of time on the phone, your throat may be too sore and your voice too weak to do your job effectively.

Air travel in the first two weeks post-op isn't advised. People who fly regularly for work should plan to be grounded.

A Word From Verywell

You shouldn't be discouraged if your recovery time doesn't fit into these approximations; everyone heals at their own rate. If you have any underlying health issues, such as diabetes, or you have a weakened immune system, you'll likely take longer to recover.

During recuperation, call your healthcare provider (or your child's pediatrician) about any bright red bleeding, fever, or uncontrollable pain. These symptoms can indicate a problem that requires emergency medical attention.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What kind of complications are common after a tonsillectomy?

    Bleeding is the most common complication after a tonsillectomy. Nausea and vomiting may also occur after the procedure. Post-op pain, which makes eating and drinking difficult, can lead to dehydration, problems swallowing, and weight loss. Velopharyngeal insufficiency (when the soft palate doesn’t close against the throat correctly) is another possible problem. 

  • Why is it harder to recover from a tonsillectomy as an adult?

    The longer recovery is due to the fact that adult tonsils are harder to remove, which may be a result of scar tissue building up on tonsils every time you have a throat infection. Adults who’ve had a significant number of infections have thicker scar tissue that the healthcare provider needs to deal with during surgery. 

  • How soon after a tonsillectomy can my child go back to school?

    It depends on how your child is recovering. If they’re eating a fairly normal diet within a week to 10 days after surgery and are up to resuming normal activities, your healthcare provider may recommend returning to school. Strenuous and high-contact sports or activities should be limited for a little longer, though.

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Article Sources
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