What Can I Eat After a Tonsillectomy?

A tonsillectomy is a surgery to remove the tonsils. Tonsils are located in the back of the mouth. They help the immune system defend against infections in the throat. If you have frequent infections, obstructive sleep apnea, or complications related to the size of your tonsils, you might have a tonsillectomy.

Tonsillectomy generally only takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Doctors perform the procedure in a same-day surgical center or, less often, in a hospital.

This article explains how you might feel after surgery and what is good to eat and drink while recovering.

After Your Tonsillectomy

Verywell / Joshua Seong

How Will I Feel After Surgery?

You will still be asleep when you first return from the operating room. Some things you can expect after you wake up include:

  • Sore throat: It is common to have a sore throat when you wake up. Your nurse will be able to treat your pain.
  • Confusion: You may ask your nurse or a family member the same question multiple times. You may not remember that you already asked the question. Confusion is a normal reaction to the general anesthesia that you received during the surgery.

When You'll Go Home

Tonsillectomies are outpatient procedures. That means, unless you have a significant history of sleep apnea or have complications, you will go home the same day.

Recovery time depends on your age. Kids and teens recover more quickly than adults. But how long it takes you to recover depends on your overall health and specific circumstance. General estimates for recovery are:

  • Under 19: If you are under 19, your recovery may take seven to 14 days.
  • Adults over 19: If you are an adult, you can expect recovery to take two to three weeks.

What to Eat and Drink After Your Surgery

After a tonsillectomy, the most common complaint is throat pain, which can be severe enough to make it hard to eat or drink. You can take medications your doctor prescribes to help manage this pain. In addition, eating and drinking certain things and avoiding others also can help.

It's a good idea to stock the fridge in preparation for a tonsillectomy. Here are some general things to consider before you hit the supermarket:

  • Limit dairy products: Dairy can make stomach upset worse. So, if you're having nausea or vomiting (a side effect of anesthesia and pain medication), substitute sorbets, fruit pops, or fruit ices for ice cream.
  • Avoid citrus: Food and drinks with high citric acid levels, such as tomato juice and lemonade, can sting and cause pain.
  • Avoid very hot things: Don't try to swallow hot beverages or soups.
  • Eat soft foods: Steer clear of foods with hard or sharp edges, which can scratch and irritate a sore throat.
  • Eat cold things: Cold foods and fluids reduce swelling and pain.

For the first couple of days after surgery, it can help to eat or drink cold and soft things. Avoiding hard, sharp, spicy, or hot foods also may help you stay more comfortable.

Enjoy
  • Clear liquids like apple juice

  • Soda such as Sprite

  • Warm black coffee or tea

  • Warm clear soup or broth

  • Mashed potatoes

  • Applesauce

  • Jell-O

  • Soft pasta

  • Bananas

  • Ice cream—if your stomach isn't bothered by dairy

  • Popsicles

Avoid
  • Tomato juice

  • Lemonade

  • Very hot beverages or soup

  • Carrots

  • Raw apples

  • Tomatoes

  • Spicy foods

  • Crackers

  • Dairy products if you have nausea and vomiting from anesthesia

Staying Hydrated

After surgery, it is vital to stay well hydrated, especially for the first 72 hours. Hydration helps keep your skin moist, which is important for wound healing. Hydration also reduces pain.

Dehydration is a common reason for emergency department visits after surgery. So increasing your fluid intake can reduce your risk for additional visits to the hospital.

Cold drinks (like apple juice, ice water, or soda) may make you feel better as they cool your injured throat. Warm drinks (like tea or coffee), on the other hand, may provide you with a soothing sensation that you'll like after surgery.

Surgeons generally advise against hot liquids because they can make your pain worse. In addition, heat can lead to vasodilation (blood vessel widening), which may cause bleeding.

Summary

After a tonsillectomy, it is common to have a sore throat. Therefore, eating soft, cold things can be soothing. If nausea isn't a problem, live it up and enjoy as many of the cold, soft foods you would typically enjoy to help reduce your pain. In addition, foods like ice cream or popsicles will help soothe your sore throat and keep you hydrated.

A Word From Verywell

It can be challenging to stay hydrated when you don't want to swallow because of a sore throat. So try sipping on a cold drink throughout the day to help prevent dehydration. Call your healthcare provider if you have signs of dehydration, such as dry eyes or skin or dark-colored urine.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long should you eat soft foods after a tonsillectomy?

    Check with your doctor to be sure. Usually, children should eat soft foods for up to two weeks after surgery. Adults may need to eat soft foods for a week longer. When introducing normal foods, avoid hard, scratchy foods that can hurt the throat.

  • How can you help your body recover after a tonsillectomy?

    To help your throat heal, it's important to drink plenty of liquids. That not only helps with healing but reduces pain as well. Remember to drink liquids that are warm or cold —not hot—to avoid hurting your throat.

Was this page helpful?
4 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.
  1. Hashmi MA, Ahmed A, Aslam S, Mubeen M. Post-tonsillectomy pain and vomiting: Role of pre-operative steroids. J Coll Physicians Surg Pak. 2012;22(8):505-9. doi:08.2012/JCPSP.505509

  2. Baugh RF, Archer SM, Mitchell RB, et al. Clinical practice guideline: tonsillectomy in children. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2011;144(1 Suppl):S1-30. doi:10.1177/0194599810389949

  3. Children's Mercy. How to care for your child after tonsillectomy surgery.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Tonsillectomy with or without adenoidectomy.

Additional Reading