Common Changes After Having Your Tonsils Removed

Expect swelling, scabs, and bad breath

tonsillectomy is a common surgery to remove your tonsils. Healthcare providers may recommend it if you keep getting infections six or more times a year. Another reason might be that your tonsils are so large they cause problems breathing while you sleep.  

After the surgery, it's normal for your throat to look different and hurt. There are four main changes to expect. Knowing what to expect could help you worry less.

Read on to learn more about what changes to expect after you've had your tonsils removed.

changes after tonsillectomy
Verywell / Jessica Olah

Swollen Tongue

Having a swollen tongue is pretty typical the first few days after surgery.

While you were under anesthesia, your surgical team used various tools to work within the small space of your mouth. They suctioned blood and saliva so you could breathe. They used other devices to move your tongue around. This prevented your tongue from getting hurt and kept it out of your surgeon's way.

All that bumping and moving around is why your tongue feels sore and swollen. You might even have a thick white film on it. Inflammation can also spread from the area where your tonsils were to other parts of the throat.

You don't need to call a healthcare provider unless tongue swelling becomes severe enough that you have difficulty talking, swallowing, or breathing, or if the swelling does not get better on its own.

Your healthcare provider will likely prescribe pain medication. Follow the instructions carefully. To make your tongue feel better, try:

  • Drinking cold or cool, clear liquids, like water and apple juice
  • Eating ice chips to reduce tongue swelling and ease the pain
  • Using a cold pack on the outside of your throat

Swollen Uvula

Your uvula is the flap of tissue that hangs in the back of your throat. It helps you swallow and speak. It will likely be sore and look red. After you have your tonsils taken out, swelling of your uvula happens for the same reasons your tongue hurts: It got bumped during the surgery, or inflammation spread to it.

Drinking cool fluids and eating ice chips can help. Start with easy-to-swallow, soft, cold foods like yogurt, pudding, and scrambled eggs, once you can eat.

Avoid anything hot, spicy, or crunchy that could irritate your uvula and throat. Eating foods like chips and crackers could increase your swelling or cause bleeding. Call your healthcare provider if you start:

  • Drooling
  • Gagging
  • Having difficulty talking
  • Having difficulty breathing

These might be signs that the swelling is blocking your airway.

White Scabs

After surgery, you may see white scabs or a yellow film on the site where your tonsils were. Don't worry. The scabs usually go away within five to 10 days.

However, call your healthcare provider if you notice bright red streaks of blood coming from where your tonsils were or if there's a green tint. These symptoms could be signs of bleeding or an infection.

Bad Breath

Unfortunately, bad breath is common after a tonsillectomy. This symptom usually goes away as your throat heals.  The causes of your bad breath include:

  • Cauterization or burning of the site where your tonsils were
  • Swelling of your tongue, which causes food particles to become trapped
  • Scabs over your surgical site

Symptoms and Risks After Tonsillectomy

Several adverse effects are associated with having your tonsils removed. They include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Throat pain
  • Low-grade fever
  • Ear pain
  • Fatigue

The most significant risk, though, is bleeding from your surgical site. In severe cases, this can be fatal.

If you experience bleeding in the hospital or at home following a tonsillectomy, you should get help immediately.

If you have bleeding, you may feel the need to swallow frequently. When you do, you'll feel a trickle of blood in the back of your throat. Call your healthcare provider immediately. It's also important to watch for any signs of infection, such as a fever over 102 degrees F.

Follow Up

Plan on needing a week or two to recover fully. Your healthcare provider will want to check you within a couple of weeks to make sure you are healing. Keeping this appointment and following any post-surgery instructions are essential.


Having your tonsils taken out isn't fun. Your throat will likely hurt and look different after you have your tonsils removed. You should expect a swollen tongue and uvula, white scabs where your tonsils were, and bad breath.

Don't worry. These are all normal changes that will go away as your throat mends. Call your healthcare provider if you think you're bleeding in the back of the throat or if you have a fever over 102 degrees F.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What symptoms might I have after a tonsillectomy?

    After your surgery you should expect some pain, soreness, and swelling in your throat. You may see white scabs or a yellow film where your tonsils used to be. This usually goes away within a week or two as your throat heals from the surgery.

  • What can I drink or eat after my surgery?

    Start out with clear, cool liquids like water, apple, or grape juice. These will help you stay hydrated, cool your throat, and reduce the swelling. Ice chips and ice pops are also a good idea. When you can eat, start with soft, cool foods for the first week like yogurt, pudding, and scrambled eggs.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.