Frequently Asked Questions

Here is a list of frequently asked questions some of our nurses in Pediatric Otolaryngology put together. If you don't find an answer to your question on this list, please review our Patient Procedures or call our Nurse Line at 412-692-5460 option 1.

Are cold-like symptoms after a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy (such as cough and congestion) normal?
Yes. Cold and congestion symptoms are normal due to recovering from anesthesia/intubation as well as increased production of secretions when recovering from surgery. Causes for concern include fever and neck stiffness. If you notice these symptoms, please contact our Nurse Line at 412-692-5460 option 1.
Is ear pain normal after a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy?
Yes. Ear pain is very common because the nerve that supports the tonsils and adenoids also supports the ears. Have your child take his or her post-op pain medication as scheduled. If pain persists after the prescribed post-op meds are finished, then please call our Nurse Line at 412-692-5460 option 1.

When can my child return to school and gym after surgery?
This depends on the particular surgery. For ear tubes, patients can start back to school the next day. Usually after a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy, patients can return to school one week post-op and resume gym and activities two to three weeks post-op. The post-op plan for each surgeon is different; please consult with your individual surgeon for your child’s specific plan of care.

When will I find out when my child’s surgery is scheduled?
If you know your schedule during the time of the visit, you can leave your pre-op consultation visit with a date for surgery. If your child’s surgery will be in Lawrenceville, the operating room nurse will call you the day before between 1 and 8 p.m. to provide a specific time. If your child’s surgery will be at Children's North, someone will call you the day before surgery to provide a specific time. The call could be in the morning or afternoon.

If my child's ear tube is coming out or is in the canal, how quickly should my child be seen?
If your child is having ear pain or infections now that the tube is out, or if your pediatrician is having difficulty visualizing the eardrum, then please schedule an appointment within a week or two. If your child is not having pain or infections, you can proceed to his or her routine follow-up appointment.

When can my child swim after tubes? What about after tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy?
With ear tubes, different surgeons give different direction. Most will allow swimming as long as your child uses earplugs. 
With tonsillectomy, your child should be able to resume swimming two to three weeks post-op.

When can my child have immunizations before and after surgery?
Two weeks before surgery, or two weeks after
Is it common that my child has worsening pain seven days post-op after a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy?
Yes, this is a common part of the post-op course. Often patients feel better between post-op days 2 to 6, and then “hit the wall” on day 7. For this reason pain medication is administered until post-op day 10 and possibly beyond, depending on the individual patient’s needs. If your child still needs pain medication more than 10 days following surgery, please call the our Nurse Line at 412-692-5460 option 1.

Is neck pain normal after an adenoidectomy?
Yes. This because of the location of the adenoids, which sit over the muscles that help control neck motion. Neck pain can continue for about a week, but it should be getting better at the seven-day post-op point. If pain worsens or is associated with fever, then please call our Nurse Line at 412-692-5460 option 1, as your child will need to be seen in our clinic.

Why is my child having constipation while on pain medication?
This is a normal side effect, particularly with codeine. Constipation is due to a combination of the pain medication and changes in your child’s diet post-op. 

How long should my child have bad breath after an adenoidectomy? 
As long as 14 days

Are nosebleeds normal after sinus surgery?
They can be common. We recommend Afrin® acutely for nosebleeds and strict adherence to using nasal saline several times a day. For immediate post-surgical patients, there is a sponge or drip pad. If you need to change the drip pad more than once per hour, please call our Nurse Line at 412-692-5460 option 1. Bleeding should taper off and be rare after the first day, yet bleeding can occur infrequently for up to a week.

What should be done if my child has bleeding after tonsillectomy?
Any amount of bleeding (even a dime size) needs to be evaluated immediately in the emergency room. Your surgeon should be notified. Sometimes, children with tonsil bleeds are admitted to the hospital. A percentage of those admissions may need to return to the operating room for cauterization or suture placement. 

How normal is it to have ear drainage after ear tubes? When should I call the office?
For the first week it is very common, and patients may even have blood-tinged drainage. It is more common to have drainage when there is fluid or infection at the time of ear tube placement. If the drainage continues longer than the course of post-op ear drops please call our Nurse Line at 412-692-5460 option 1. 

My child is having night terrors after surgery. Is this normal, and is there anything I should worry about?
Disturbances in the sleep routine are common after any surgical procedure including ear, nose, and throat surgeries. Night terrors are most common in children ages 3 to 6.

Is it normal for my child to have a cough after tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy?
Coughs can be common, primarily after the first several hours post-op due to having a breathing tube during surgery. Ongoing cough for several days post-op may occur due to swelling in the surgical site and post-nasal drip due to increase secretions. Before starting any over-the-counter cough remedies, please contact our Nurse Line at 412-692-5460 option 1.

How much should my child eat or drink after his or her tonsillectomy? What should I do if my child will not eat or drink?
It is less important that your child eat solids after tonsillectomy. It is more important to drink liquids and keep your child hydrated. Lack of interest in food and drink may be due to still being groggy from anesthesia and from post-operative pain. If you child does not want to eat or drink, this may be a sign that his or her pain is not being controlled adequately. Please ensure that you are following the frequency and prescribed dosage for pain medication. You know your child best — whether it is a favorite Popsicle®, slushy or their favorite juice, items like these will help keep your child hydrated. 

When can I give my child ibuprofen products before and after tonsil and adenoid surgery?
Please do not give your child ibuprofen products for two weeks before or after tonsil and adenoid surgery.  For other surgeries please consult your surgeon or call the Nurse Line at 412-692-5460 option 1.