Things I’ve learnt since my preschooler’s tonsillectomy

My 4.5 year old Little Miss had her tonsils and adenoids removed last week, and we are right in the middle of the recovery period. Recovering from a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy is a bit shit, if I’m honest, with lots of tears (from all concerned) and not a great deal of sleep happening. But hey, what’s new huh? What’s a bit of lost sleep between friends?

I was completely freaked out about the surgery in the lead up, imagining the worst case scenario and every possible complication. Especially the general anaesthetic part. Because MUM. I think my perception was also clouded by the fact that when I had my tonsils out, at the tender age of 28 (!), it was utterly horrendous and has scarred me (literally) for life.

As it turned out, my daughter’s operation was completely routine, and her recovery is proceeding as expected. Well, as the doctors expected, it’s certainly thrown a few curve balls my way.

Here are a few things I’ve learnt since my daughter had a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (or ‘T&A’ as it’s known in the medical circles… *snigger*):

You will collapse in a sobbing heap at some point

I was allowed to ‘suit up’ (in a rather fetching white over-suit that came in One Size Fits the BFG and left me looking like Bay Max from Big Hero Six) and stay by Little Miss’ side as she was wheeled into the surgery and had the gas administered. Being able to stay with your child as they are put to sleep may be comforting for the kid, but it will make mum cry big, fat, ugly tears as soon as she leaves the room.

Bay Max | Tonsillectomy |

Kids can wake up from general anaesthetic a bit aggro

Or, in my daughter’s case, ready to punch on. I was sitting patiently (read: neurotically pacing the room) in recovery when a very red-faced nurse came running out saying “Ooh mum, we need you in here, stat,” which didn’t freak me out AT ALL. But rather than the bloodbath my mind immediately leapt to, they just needed my help to settle down my crazy girl who’d woken up ready to fight. I suggest keeping your face away from flailing arms and legs if you don’t want to be in need of a stretcher yourself (and, once again, apologies to the lovely nurse who was left with a very sore nose after Little Miss’ foot connected with it).

Nurses are worth their weight in gold

We had a gorgeous collection of nurses looking after us during our stay. They were so patient and understanding, and really helped to ease my girls’ anxiety. They really are a special breed! I personally could not handle having to deal with that many bodily fluids, especially ones produced by people I’m not related to. I can barely cope with dealing with the bodily fluids of my offspring.

Hospital beds are horrendous

And hospital pull-out sofa-beds are a fucking instrument of torture. Mine was the width of a piece of paper and just as comfortable. Fortunately, the all-night beeping and three hourly bed checks meant there was no sleep happening anyway.

Hospital bed | Tonsillectomy | www.toiletsarentforturtles.comIce cream and jelly may not be the saviour you expect

My Little Miss was so excited about the prospect of all-you-can-eat frozen treats leading up to her operation, she was telling all her kindy friends about how lucky she was, and teasing her little brother incessantly about all the ice cream she was going to have. But in reality, all the ice cream, ice blocks and cold sweet delights I stocked the fridge with are still sitting there, frosting over. All she wants is a little bit of yoghurt and the occasional hot (but very cooled, unsalted) chip.

When kids are in pain they may not register it as ‘pain’

My daughter gets cranky when she’s due for her next dose of pain relief. Actually, not just cranky – she can turn into a total psycho. All of a sudden doors are slamming and books are flying across the room. I can’t do anything right and, despite the pain it must cause her throat, she screams and yells with a rage that shakes the walls. She does have some awareness of this – she said the other night, “mum, when I get angry, it’s ‘cos I’m feeling rubbish,” – but she has zero control over it. Bless her crazy little heart.

Even medicine labelled ‘great new flavour’ tastes like shit

Why does medicine still taste so bad? They can do so much with artificial flavouring these days, I can’t believe that kids’ medicine still tastes so bloody horrible. Trying to get an already upset child to swallow something that tastes like poison, when the simple act of swallowing hurts anyway… well, it’s bloody torture is what it is.

Poison | Tonsillectomy | www.toiletsarentforturtles.comIt actually gets worse before it gets better

The first couple of days after the op Little Miss was quiet, but not in any obvious pain or distress. She was happy to snuggle on the couch and watch tele or read a book. We are now onto day 6, and things are starting to get a little messy. Hourly tantrums and refusing to take her medicine (although who can blame her), and even some night terrors through the night. Apparently days 7 to 10 are the worst, as this is when the healed part of the wound starts to come away, leaving the throat raw and sore again (sorry about the TMI – gross huh?). A little bit of bleeding is not unusual at this stage (a lot of bleeding is something to worry about though so don’t dismiss it, get it checked out).

Two weeks is a fucking long time

Little Miss has to stay home from kindy for two whole weeks, and refrain from activities that would raise her heart rate too much (as it increases the chance of post-op bleeding). Two weeks of being stuck at home with a cranky mum who is trying to get some work done… we’re not even halfway and already I’m tearing my hair out. She insisted she was well enough to go to the Disney on Ice show on the weekend (and I’d paid $200 for the tickets so really didn’t want to have to miss it), but by the end of the show she was exhausted and miserable and I really wish we hadn’t pushed it. The (very bloody expensive) flashing Frozen sceptres we bought have provided hours of entertainment though, so I guess it was worth it.

Tonsillectomy | www.toiletsarentforturtles.comI know this will all be a distant memory over the next few weeks when she stops snoring louder than her dad and struggling to breathe around her enormously oversized tonsils.

Until we get to that point, wish us luck.


Have you been through a tonsillectomy with your kids? What was their recovery like? Any tips??







  • Sounds horrific! You poor things. Knocking on everything to never have to deal with that. If my kids get gastro, my whole world caves in so I’m not sure I could deal with hospitals and anaesthetic and force fed medicine.
    Karin @ Calm to Conniption recently posted…The Ultimate Rabbit Hole #77: Just Quietly, Loving This Weather!My Profile

  • Poor you and your poor girl! I think it’s horrible watching someone you love going under and being in hospital, especially when it’s a child, and especially when it’s your child. I hope everyone is feeling loads better and that your girl is zooming along the road to recovery!
    Sammie@The Annoyed Thyroid recently posted…The Ultimate Rabbit Hole #77My Profile

  • We have had a few bouts of surgery for Son number 2, one for his mouth and one for his broken arm, neither were pleasant, in fact bloody horrible experiences, for both of us! My son has a super high pain threshold, which roughly translates to a shit of a kid when he is in pain, so I can relate to all of your points here. I do hope your daughter recovers quickly xx

  • Sounds awful – I hope she’s nearing the end of recovery? We’ve only really experienced broken things (arms, collar bones, wrists) – oh, and a febrile convulsion, which was scary but recovered in a couple of days. Taking my son to hospital with his double fracture in his arm was terrible though – his pain, and his comments (I wish I wasn’t here, I wish I hadn’t lived to experience this – he tends to be dramatic, but it was painful), and then watching it being manipulated into place under a strong sedative… it is hard (and then six weeks of no swimming through the summer school holidays – great). Hope you’re through the worst of it.

  • It’s just awful when they are sick. And I have found that my kids register pain in unexpected ways as well. When my son broke his arm, he didn’t cry once but the LOOK on his face. Broke my heart.
    Robyna | the Mummy & the Minx recently posted…The universe doesn’t owe me a thing (and that’s okay)My Profile

  • Oh the poor little darl. I too had mine out around 28 and it was the most awful thing – I have a funny story to share actually 🙂
    After the 2 weeks recovery I went back to work (school) – mad was just starting to get my voice back… Then I was on yard duty and we had a snake sighting!! (Our school is in the outskirts) – so I had to yell!! To get all the kids away from the area – oh boy what a way to test out my new throat! lol hope she feels better soon.

  • The poor little chicken. I’ve heard a few accounts of anasthetic induced rage in kids, how scary! Hope she is well on the mend.

  • Oh wow! That sounds full on love!! Your poor baby!! Poor you. I’d sob big fat ugly tears too!! How good are nurses though, I swear I fall a tiny bit in love with them for all their kindness. And who the HELL designs hospital beds?! You’d think a company would master the snuggle and comfort factor on hospital beds as that’s exactly what we’re needing in stress health times. Glad I’m not the only one that was ripped off buying a noisy toy at Disney on ice. Hope it gets easier and more comfortable from now on.

  • Wishing you all the luck! Reading this took me back to both tonsillectomies/adenoids/grommet ops for my tornadoes. Miss T woke from the op all ok but I had to physically restrain Mr TT – he turned into an animal (poor thing just wanted to rip out his IV and run away). That night in the hospital “sleeping” on a fold out chair and waking on every beep and nurse check, getting worse before it gets better, cranky kids and cabin fever from having to stay away from anything they deemed as fun. It feels like forever but it’s just a case of getting it over with. The results are well worth the pain and I now have tornadoes who can hear properly and are eating better because they don’t have massive adult size tonsils affecting how they eat. I hope it’s well worth it for your little one too. Bravo for making it through the rough ride Mumma McD. As for nurses – they are amazing and aren’t paid nearly enough! xx
    Tash @ Gift Grapevine recently posted…Interview with a toddlerMy Profile

  • Argh! That sounds really awful. Your poor little girl and poor you. I think we may be going down the adenoid removal route, which I know is not as bad as a full T&A (Lolz). She’s a snorer and we’re using a steroid spray at the moment to reduce the size of her nasal turbinates (just throwing in another wanky term for you). I had my tonsils and adenoids out when I was 11 and expected ice cream and jelly. I wasn’t allowed to leave the hospital though until I ate savoury mince. WTF. A nightmare for a kid TRYING to be a vegetarian in a world of meat eaters.

  • My eldest had her adenoids out when she was five, but that was pretty routine. I think tonsils are generally ‘worse’ from what I’ve heard.
    I’ve had kids under a GA a few times though, and it’s never easier. Last year my daughter had an ear op and that was really hard. Recovery was tough for both of us, and I hope we never have to do anything like that again.
    I hope she heals quickly and life goes back to normal for you all soon. xx
    EssentiallyJess recently posted…#IBOT. All Grown Up.My Profile

  • We had a double banger, eg two of my kids had the same procedure on the same day! We stayed overnight, my hubby and I, with each child and I have to say that it was great to have that first night in hospital! Yes the recovery wasn’t great but it’s all a distant memory now. Feeling your pain x
    Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me recently posted…Why you must be your child’s advocate at schoolMy Profile

    • Far out two at once!! I stayed overnight with my girl too, it was a big relief for all of us that they let me. It’s been 10 days now and I think she’s on the up and up :).

  • Oh I hear ya. My girl was 17 when we eventually found a doctor who would agree to take them out. Despite the age difference, much of what you said here was true for us. She woke up crying and upset from the anaesethic (get mum STAT!). Nurses are great. She was told to eat normal food, but could barely manage even jelly or custard; and wound up back in hospital after a few days as she couldn’t keep anything down anyway (imagine how that would burn on a raw throat!). She was REALLY sick and needed mummy nursing her for the full 2 weeks. But since then? She’s a heck of a lot healthier, totally worth it! Hope your little munchkin feels a lot better soon, for her mummy’s sake!

    Visiting from #teamIBOT x
    Janet Camilleri aka Middle Aged Mama recently posted…Pet Names for Your Boyfriend or HusbandMy Profile

  • The poor little darling. Poor Mum too. There’s nothing worst than a child being unwell. I fell into a faint twice watching my sons come out of surgery. It’s the only time I’ve ever fainted. I agree, nurses are absolute legends. I hope she feels better very soon xxx

  • Sounds like a nightmare. My neighbour’s son was on the public URGENT waiting list for half his life (he was two) when she eventually went private because her doctor said not having the surgery was affecting his hearing and speech. There were post-op complications and he ended up at the public hospital where he was on the waiting list. She just got a letter from them to say he could have an appointment in a few weeks? What The? In the meantime, she’s going through the same scenario with her daughter, so I assume it will be even worse. I hope everyone is on the mend now x

  • I expect I will be having that surgery in the next few years (or decade haha, public waiting lists!) and I’m kind of scared of the recovery…and the surgery. I’ve never had surgery. Ok, I’m scared of all of it.
    Vanessa recently posted…The Importance Of Academic ElectivesMy Profile

  • Big hugs to you all. None of my four have had their tonsils out – LUCKY US – but like you I had mine out at 28 and it was a horror… awful memories, awful.

    This is such a handy post for people who are heading to hospital so must share on my FB page.

    Hope that you all survive with sense of humour more or less intact.
    Seana Smith recently posted…Off To Orange – Off and OnMy Profile

  • GAs are hard as a mum! We’ve been through a few now and it def gets easier. The first time I took a gazillion photos of my son before we got to the hospital because I was secretly convinced he’d never wake up again.

    PS I wish they would take my 6yo’s tonsils out. He’s just gone back to school after his 4th bout this year 🙁
    Bec @ Seeing the Lighter Side recently posted…My husband’s food choice epiphanyMy Profile

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