Tonsils Out! (Adenoid and Tonsil Advice)

PSP members share advice and expriences about adenoidectomies, recovery times, and how YOU will make it through the surgery (the kid will be fine).

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Important Message from Park Slope Parents (PSP): Just a reminder, PSP member posts are not checked for accuracy. The content is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. is not intended to, and does not, provide medical advice diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on the PSP groups or on the website.


As one parent writes:

"Kiddo is going to have his tonsils and adenoids shaved next week. I would like to hear stories of how you explained the surgery to your 5/6 year old and how recovery went. Also, I’m super anxious about the anesthesia and could use some advice/support. I know it’s an easy procedure but I am worried. Kiddo doesn’t have sleep apnea so it’s not a life threatening condition, but it’s a quality of life issue (isn’t getting deep sleep, v tired, behavior issues). I have little doubt he will benefit from the procedure but my fear has almost gotten the best of me and made me postpone it. I would greatly appreciate any words of wisdom.
Oh, and to my surprise the doctor (highly regarded and referenced on this list and elsewhere) suggested I don’t tell my son the truth about the surgery. He suggested we call it a breathing procedure and that he will go to sleep and have a machine that helps him breathe etc. This does not feel right to me. So I’m very interested in thoughts on that and again, how to explain in kid terms what will happen. My guy has a bit of a problem with anxiety so I need to also be careful to not overload him.
Thanks much."




"Absolutely buy the book, “Curious George goes to the Hospital”!!! My daughter was turning 5 when she had hers shaved. We didn’t tell her about it until about a day or so before b/c she didn’t really have any sense of time and longer than that would be an eternity. Our doctor never suggested that we not tell her. That doesn’t sound right to me either... Incidentally, my daughter had hers shaved and she was, literally, at the zoo THE NEXT DAY!!!"


"My son had to have surgery last September to insert 3 pins into a broken elbow. He was 5-and-3/4 at the time, so about the same age as your kid. We had an excellent anesthesiologist (this was at Kingsbook Jewish hospital) who gave him one of the actual breathing masks to play with. He let my son practice with it, and even put it on his stuffed Mario. He explained that my son would breathe in, count to 5, and fall asleep. When asleep, he would feel no pain while the doctor fixed his arm. The part that was very, very hard for me -- and for my son -- was when they wheeled him away from me, from the prep room into the OR. I was allowed to be with him right up until we got to those shiny, double-wide swinging doors, but then I had to stop, and they kept wheeling him away down the hallway to the OR. He was screaming, terrified ... and I could only call out from a distance, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be OK. I’ll be right here, waiting for you to come back.”
I wish I had prepared him better for that moment of separation, but I didn’t even know that I wouldn’t be allowed past the swinging doors. I also assumed that they might give him a little sedative or something to ease the anxiety before they wheeled him away, but that didn't happen, either. (Other friends had told me, “Oh don’t worry, they give the kids something to make them a little loopy and relaxed ...” but that didn't happen for us.) I don’t know what I might have said or done differently, but maybe to even just prepare him -- “Mommy will be right here waiting for you. I can’t come into the room, but I will be here when you wake up.” Coming out of the anesthesia can also be brutal, so be ready for that. My son was like an angry drunk -- he was confused, scared, nauseous, and kept passing in and out of lucidity. At times, he fought like a hellcat and pulled at all the tubes and wires and monitors that were attached to him. He remembers none of that, but it was pretty awful to watch.
Surgery is not easy. But my best “words of wisdom” for you is that I really think it’s all much, much harder on the parents to witness. For the kids, they’re in and done with whatever procedure, and back on their feet fairly quickly."


"Here is some information that I have found super helpful. Good luck:
How Can I Help? Your composure as a parent is essential. Nothing calms a child more than a confident parent. Although it is natural for parents to be anxious when their child is having surgery, try not to show it.
The anesthesiologist and surgeon will do their best to make your child’s visit to the hospital as pleasant as possible, but you have a key role in your child's care. It is important for you to prepare your child for the operation as soon as the decision is made to perform surgery. Get informed about the procedure. Explain to your child why he or she needs the procedure and emphasize the positive. Tell your child that he or she will not be alone, and the anesthesiologist is there to keep them safe. When he or she wakes up, it will be in a different place than where the child went to sleep. The child may be sleepy and sore. Reassure him or her that the doctors and nurses will help the child feel better. Additionally, let them know that you are close even if the child cannot see you and that someone will go get you when they wake up. from:"


"My daughter had her adenoids removed at Mt. Sinai Med Ctr in Manhattan a couple of years ago. It was her first surgery, and she was also terrified. Mt. Sinai has a great program where you bring your child in a couple of days before the surgery to a special child-oriented office, and they have a specially-trained nurse and social worker walk your child through what she should expect, watch a movie about a young child having his first surgery, and handle much of the equipment she will be exposed to during the surgery. (gown, masks for visitors, doctor and the anesthesia mask), tubing, IV-related equipment etc....). It is an amazing program and reduced her anxiety by 90 percent. I was also allowed into the OR when she was brought in, to be with her while she was put to sleep. And of course, I was at her side when she came out of anesthesia in the recovery room. The staff was excellent from start to finish and the whole process could not have gone more smoothly. If you are considering such surgery, I highly recommend using a doctor affiliated with Mt. Sinai. We went to Dr. Michael Rothschild, who I also liked very much. Having my daughter’s adenoids out cured her of her sleep apnea, so she began sleeping better and as a result has been in a much better mood and had fewer behavior issues since then..."


" daughter had it done last year. She recovered very quickly, 2 days. They will give you paperwork on post op at the hospital. The worse part was her coming out of anesthesia."


"My son (age 7) went back to school the next day. I agree the worse part by far is the immediate recovery in the recovery room from anesthesia… about 45min of confusion and agitation.. then clears quickly."


"My daughter is very easy going and not afraid of strangers so I was not worried about that part. To prep for the actual day of surgery, I used the Curious George book titled “Curious George Goes to the Hospital”. I swear I remembered it from my own childhood and it still held up today. Every step of the way, it really helped her process what to expect. It didn’t help that I promised her tons of ice cream afterwards.
The day of the surgery was much harder for me than for my daughter. I went into the OR with her and held her while they put the mask over her face until she was out. That’s pretty awful for me (not really her because she was old enough to trust me, I think). They immediately escorted me out of the OR once she was out. When she woke up, I was at her bedside and she was able to suck ice. Once she could tolerate jello (I think), they let us go.
The pain was fairly minimal. Much to our shock, we were at the Brooklyn Children’s Zoo THE NEXT DAY!!! she said her throat was a little sore but it didn’t really impact her too much.
If you asked her, she would probably say it was too good because I did not allow as much ice cream as I had expected because the pain really wasn’t bad enough for her to need it!!"


"My son had his tonsils removed when he was 6 because of sleep apnea. He had had other surgeries at earlier ages (sigh) but this is the only one he remembers and not at all in a traumatic way. He remembers the wheel chair they put him in after the surgery and "the mean doctor who wouldn't let him see his (removed) tonsils after the surgery"!!! My son was absolutely fine the next day.
Things that help for us:
- I took a video of my son snoring very loudly, showed it to him and told him this is why he was having the surgery.
- We did not talk about it too much before hand, just focussed on the practical and all the ice cream he be able to have afterwards :)
- my son was holding his favorite toy as he was giving the anesthesia. (toughest part for me). I bent down to be at his eyes' level and told him comforting words. As soon as he came out, I handed him back his toy.
- I took my time before I went home because anesthesia sometimes causes nausea and I made the mistake after a previous surgery to rush home, thinking he would be better there, and he vomited in the car!
Best of luck to all of you."


By the way, if your child is having their tonsils or adenoids out to address sleep apnea, here's one parent's sleep apnea success story, including symptoms, surgery, and results:

"About 6 months ago my 3 year old son’s behavior was noticeably different. He was irritable, had one two many tantrums, wasn’t listening, and displayed signs of hyperactivity. At night you can hear him snoring from the other room, he stopped breathing at times and then we would hear loud gasps for air. We had trouble waking him up in the morning and he was obviously just always tired and cranky. He was also a big time mouth breather and had such a nasally voice.

His pediatrician told me his tonsils were large and she recommended I start him on Claritin and Flonase for one month. If his nights didn’t change we should schedule an appointment with an ENT, and we did.

The ENT told us he likely had obstructive sleep apnea, though they did not do a study on him. He got his adnoeids and tonsils fully removed and during the surgery the Doctor cleaned his middle ear. His adnoeids were 90% obstructive! Anyway, everything that day moved pretty quickly. We went to NYU and the doctors and nurses were just fantastic. My kid is a bit tough so they ended up sedating him. I brought him back to the OR and laid him down on the bed. I stayed with him while they gave him the mask to fall asleep and that was it. By the way it was a little creepy that he fell asleep with his eyes open. But it was normal! The surgery was 45 minutes. We were brought back to the recovery room to wait for him to wake up. That took about 20 mins. He ate 3 popsicles and we were out! He was in pain and a bit out of it, but it wasn’t horrible.

It took my son an entire 7 days to feel better and to be completely off pain medicine. Soft foods were all he could pretty much eat. Just a tip: per my doctors instructions I kept him on meds very consistently for 3 days even waking him up through the night so he didn’t wake up in pain and with a dry mouth. He had an elevated fever on and off for 2-3 days after the surgery, but that was ok.

A week after his surgery, my kid is happy again. He’s talking more, he’s not so angry or whiny, he’s not snoring, he’s waking up early, it’s a HUGE weight off our shoulders. I wanted nothing more than to see my kid happy again. As for his other behavior issues, I’m not sure yet, he might have to unlearn some things but I’m hopeful because I can already see a HUGE change in him and it’s only been a week."