Tonsillitis & Enlarged Tonsils: Is Tonsillectomy Right for You?

Tonsils and Adenoids

Tonsils and adenoids are similar to the lymph nodes or glands found in the neck, groin, and armpits. Tonsils are the two round lumps in the back of the throat. Adenoids are high in the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth (soft palate) and are not visible through the mouth or nose without special instruments. The two most common problems affecting the tonsils and adenoids are recurrent infections and significant enlargement that cause nasal obstruction and/or breathing, swallowing, and sleep problems. Abscesses around the tonsils, chronic tonsillitis, and infections of small pockets within the tonsils that produce foul-smelling white deposits can also affect the tonsils and adenoids, making them sore and swollen.


Symptoms of tonsillitis:

  • Redder than normal tonsils
  • A white or yellow coating on the tonsils
  • A slight voice change due to swelling
  • Sore throat, sometimes accompanied by ear pain
  • Uncomfortable or painful swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck
  • Fever
  • Bad breath

Symptoms of enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids:

  • Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose most of the time
  • Nasal-sounding voice
  • Chronic runny nose
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Snoring
  • Sleep apnea

The Treatment


Bacterial infections of the tonsils, especially those caused by streptococcus, are first treated with antibiotics. Removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) and/or adenoids (adenoidectomy) may be recommended if there are recurrent infections despite antibiotic therapy, and/or difficulty breathing due to enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids. Complicated tonsillitis, abscess formation, and abnormal tonsil/adenoid growths are also reason for tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery. 

Other indications for tonsillectomy may include but are not limited to: history of peritonsillar abscess, sleep-disordered breathing, and other comorbid conditions.

What should I expect after Tonsillectomy Surgery?

PAIN CONTROL: There is a great deal of pain expected post-operatively! Pain may radiate into the ear and neck, which is common. Your surgeon will prescribe pain medication to dull the pain. This will probably not resolve the pain completely. Take pain medication as prescribed!

DRINKING: The most important requirement for recovery is hydration. Immediately following surgery clear liquids are encouraged. Nausea or vomiting may occur; your provider may prescribe medications for this. Dehydration may lead to increased pain and fever.

EATING: Generally, eating is not as important as drinking post-op, and weight loss is expected. During recovery, a soft diet may help with swallowing.

FEVER: A low-grade fever is common up to a day or two after surgery. Contact your physician if fever is greater than 102 degrees.

ACTIVITY: Activity may be increased slowly after normal eating and drinking resumes and pain medication is no longer required. Travel far away from a medical facility is not recommended two weeks following surgery.

SCABS: A scab will form where tissue was removed. They appear as thick, white patches and cause bad breath. This is normal and will fall off on its own.

BLEEDING: With the exception of small specks of blood from the nose or in saliva, bright red blood should not be seen. If such bleeding occurs, contact your physician immediately and go to the emergency room! Surgery may be needed to control the bleeding.

If you think you may be a candidate for tonsillectomy surgery, or if you have questions following a recent tonsillectomy, please do not hesitated to contact us at 402-778-5250!

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