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A boy has his tonsils examinedYour tonsils are areas of lymph tissue at the back of your mouth that help you fight infection. When they get infected, this is known as tonsillitis.

You can manage without tonsils because everyone has other lymph tissue that does the same job.

If you or your tamaiti (child) get repeated bouts of tonsillitis that lead to a lot of time off work or school, you may need to have your tonsils removed. This is done in an operation called a tonsillectomy.

You may be able to get a publicly funded tonsillectomy if you have had 1 or more of:

Having your tonsils out is a short operation. It usually takes less than an hour. You or your tamaiti are likely to go home on the same day as the surgery, but you may need to stay overnight.

After having your tonsils out

It is common to have a sore throat after your tonsils are taken out. Taking regular pain relief such as paracetamol can help. But make sure you follow your health professional's instructions on how much to take. This is particularly important for children.

Do not take aspirin as this can make you bleed more. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, make sure you take them all and do not have any left over.

Straight after your operation, you may have a few specks of blood in your mouth. This is normal. But if you have any more bleeding, you should see a health professional quickly. If you get heavy bleeding after you have gone home, go straight to your general practice or the emergency department.

You might also vomit dark red (old) blood once or twice in the first day. You do not need to worry about this. But if it happens more often, make sure you see a health professional.

You might also get an earache. This is usually caused by your sore throat. It does not necessarily mean you have an ear infection. But if you get a high temperature, you need to see your general practice team.

Eating and drinking after having your tonsils out

Try to start eating normally as soon as you can after you have had your tonsils out. It can help if you take paracetamol 30 minutes before you eat something. Also make sure you drink enough, especially if you are not eating much. Sucking on ice cubes can help make sure you get enough water and help to soothe your throat.

Recovery after having your tonsils out

After having your tonsils out, you may need up to two weeks off school or work while your throat gets better. Get plenty of rest and try to avoid any heavy exercise.

You might also see a white coating on the back of your throat. This usually goes away by itself in one to two weeks. Any stitches at the back of your throat could take up to two months to disappear.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created October 2023.


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