What Can I Eat After a Tonsillectomy?

A tonsillectomy is a common surgery done to remove the tonsils. It's sometimes done in conjunction with removing the adenoids—a procedure called an adenoidectomy. Vomiting usually lasts 24 hours. You will generally need these surgeries if you have five or more infections in one year or are having complications related to the size of your tonsils. The tonsillectomy generally will only take about 30 to 45 minutes and can be performed in a same-day surgical center that is generally connected to a hospital.

After Your Tonsillectomy
Illustration by Joshua Seong. © Verywell, 2018. 

How Will I Feel After Surgery?

When you are returning from the operating room, you will still be sedated, but you will awaken soon after arriving at the recovery room. It is common to have a sore throat when you wake up, and your nurse will be able to treat your pain. You will likely ask your nurse or a family member the same question multiple times and will be unable to remember that you already asked the question. This is normal due to the medications that you are given during the surgery.

You will generally be discharged to home following the surgery unless you have a significant history of sleep apnea or have a complication during the tonsillectomy. If you are under the age of 19, you will likely recover from the tonsillectomy over the course of seven to 14 days. If you are an adult, you can expect to recover between two to three weeks. These are just general estimates, and your recovery may differ based on your own recovery rate.

What to Eat and Drink After Your Surgery

The most common complaint after a tonsillectomy is throat pain severe enough to make it hard to eat or drink. You can take medications prescribed by your doctor to help manage this pain, but eating and drinking certain foods and beverages, and steering clear of others, also can help.

If you're looking to stock the fridge in preparation for a tonsillectomy, here are some general things to consider before you hit the supermarket, plus examples of foods you may want to include in your diet as well as some to avoid as you recover.

  • While ice cream can be a feel-good food after a tonsillectomy, it's best to avoid dairy products if you're having nausea or vomiting (a side effect of anesthesia and narcotic pain medication). Instead, stick to clear liquids such as apple juice, soda such as Sprite, black coffee, or soup broth.
  • Avoid food and drinks that have high levels of citric acids, such as tomato juice and lemonade, as they can sting and cause pain.
  • Don't try to swallow very hot beverages or soups.
  • Steer clear of foods with hard or sharp edges.
  • Note that cold foods and fluids reduce swelling and pain.

Eat and Drink This...

  • 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

Not This...

  • Tomato juice

  • Lemondade

  • Very hot beverages or soup

  • Very hot soup

  • Carrots

  • Raw apples

  • Tomatoes

  • Spicy foods

  • Crackers

  • Dairy products if you have nausea and vomiting from anesthesia

Staying Hydrated

After surgery, it will be important to stay well hydrated, especially for the first 72 hours. This will help keep the surgical site moist, in turn reducing pain. Dehydration also is a common reason for emergency department visits after surgery, so increasing your fluid intake will reduce your risk for additional visits to the hospital.

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

Hot drinks generally will induce pain and some believe they may hurt your surgical site and potentially cause bleeding. However, this appears to be more myth than truth, according to research.

A Word From Verywell

While there really is nothing you can't eat after a tonsillectomy, for the first couple of days at least you may want to eat or drink foods that are cold and soft. Avoiding foods that are hard, sharp, spicy, or hot also may help you stay more comfortable. 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. Items like ice cream or popsicles will help soothe your sore throat while also helping you stay hydrated.

In fact, it's vital to stay hydrated after having your tonsils removed, which can be difficult if you don't want to swallow due to a sore throat. It is recommended to sip on a cold drink throughout the day to help prevent dehydration. Call your doctor if you have signs of dehydration, such as dry eyes or skin, or cola-colored urine.

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Article Sources
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  1. White MC, Nolan JA. An evaluation of pain and postoperative nausea and vomiting following the introduction of guidelines for tonsillectomy. Paediatr Anaesth. 2005;15(8):683-8. doi:10.1111/j.1460-9592.2004.01516.x

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. Bannister M, Thompson C. Post-tonsillectomy dietary advice and haemorrhage risk: Systematic review. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2017;103:29-31. doi:10.1016/j.ijporl.2017.09.031

Additional Reading
  • Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy Post-Op. American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery website. http://www.entnet.org/content/tonsillectomy-and-adenoids-postop Updated 2017.

  • Lescanne, E, Chiron, B, Constant, I, Couloigner, V, Fauroux, B, Hassani, Y, Viot, A (2012). Pediatric tonsillectomy: Clinical practice guidelines.
  • Messner, AH, Isaacson, GC & Armbsby, C. (2016). Tonsillectomy (with or without adenoidectomy) in children: Postoperative care and complications. http://www.uptodate.com (Subscription Required)
  • Millington, AJ, Gaunt, AC & Phillips, JS. (2016). Post-tonsillectomy dietary advice: systematic review. J Laryngol Otol. 130(10):889-892.