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Dehydration a Serious Complication of a Tonsillectomy



What All Parents Should Know

My son needed a tonsillectomy. He suffered from obstructive sleep apnea and had enormous tonsils. Like most parents, we were concerned about the upcoming surgery, but felt we were well prepared and informed about the procedure and after-care.

If your child is in need of a tonsillectomy, you probably have asked other parents what to expect. Maybe you have had your tonsils removed yourself, a few years back. Obviously, the throat will be very sore, the child will be tired, and the appropriate diet is important for the first several days.


Are there any serious risks associated with a tonsillectomy? Like many parents, we entered the Children’s Hospital anxious about the tonsil surgery. It is always scary when someone is put under anesthesia. We felt the serious risks were covered after he awoke from surgery and was able to swallow and communicate. We left the hospital two hours after the surgery feeling confident.

We watched the after-care video that told us to keep the child on medication when needed. We knew to keep our son drinking fluids and eating Popsicles. What we didn’t know is that despite our best efforts, dehydration still set in.

Although dehydration after a tonsillectomy is rare, it can be a serious problem. What may seem like a minor, childhood surgery can turn into a major emergency very quickly. For instance, my son’s surgery was on a Thursday. That morning, he weighed in at 60 pounds. Just four days after his tonsillectomy, he was down to 54 pounds. My son spent three days in the hospital trying to control the pain and to become rehydrated again before he was able to return home .

It is important for parents to know what to watch for after a tonsillectomy. Of course, always contact the surgeon, hospital, or other medical professional for advice.

Here are some signs to look for to determine if your child is becoming dehydrated after a tonsillectomy.

1. Has your child been drinking less than 6 to 8 cups in a 24 hour period?

2. Has your child been urinating less frequently than normal?

3. Does your child’s lips look or feel dry, chapped, or cracked?

4. When your child opens their mouth, does the tongue look dry?

5. Does the child’s tongue look like it has spots?

6. Does your child’s eyes look sunken in?

7. When you gently pinch the skin on the back of your child’s hand, does it peak and return to normal slowly?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you should contact a doctor for advice. It is possible that your child is becoming dehydrated. Do not assume you can simply remedy this situation at home. A trip to the hospital may be necessary.

Due to the scabs in the throat where the tonsils were removed, keeping the body well-hydrated with fluids is essential. Be prepared after a tonsillectomy for this situation. Avoid being naive and assume that this situation will not happen to your child. Dehydration is a serious situation. After a tonsillectomy, have a plan and know what to do in case your child suffers from dehydration.

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