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Encouraging drinking after a tonsillectomy fact sheet

Encouraging drinking after a tonsillectomy

Encouraging a child to drink fluids after a tonsillectomy can be challenging because swallowing is uncomfortable. However, an adequate amount of fluids is required to keep saliva flowing. This makes swallowing easier and washes the throat, and reduces the risk of infection and bleeding. Regular fluids will also prevent problems associated with dehydration.

If your child refuses to drink he/she can rapidly become dehydrated. The younger the child is the more quickly this can happen. Dehydration can lead to increased pain and also increase the chance of bleeding.

If your child becomes dehydrated at home and you cannot correct the problem, your child may have to be readmitted to hospital.

Drinking fluids is the key to a fast recovery

  • Offer your child small amounts of fluids (half a cup) every hour during waking hours for the first few days after his/her tonsillectomy.
  • Try cool fluids first such as water, cordial, ice blocks, and non-acidic fruit juices (ie apple juice) and soft drinks (let them stand to de-fizz first). Milk drinks can be consumed once your child can toler- ate clear fluids.
  • Avoid hot fluids and acidic or citrus fluids (orange, lemon, pineapple and tomato juice) as these may sting your child’s throat.
  • Regular pain-relief medication will make your child more comfortable and able to swallow fluids more easily.

Signs of dehydration

  • fever
  • dizziness
  • sunken eyes
  • pale skin
  • increased tiredness
  • dry mouth
  • no urine or dark urine
  • no tears when crying
  • looking increasingly unwell

Ideas for encouraging your child to drink


  • Offer small amounts of fluids regularly – large amounts can be overwhelming.
  • Use a special cup that your child likes to drink from.
  • Ask family members to show their support by drink- ing with your child.


  • Talk to your child and ask him/her a question so they have to answer. Before answering your child may swallow his/her saliva.
  • Offer your child a choice of which fluid to drink.
  • Start by serving drinks in a small cup and gradually move up to a larger cup.
  • Create a sticker or reward chart. (see next page)

School-age children

  • Discuss with your child the medical reasons why it is important to drink fluids.
  • Allow your child to help prepare fluids to drink.
  • Experiment with drinks that can be frozen.
  • Create a new rule while playing a board game that requires players to drink before they move their piece.
  • Create a sticker chart together.


  • Discuss with your teenager the medical reasons why it is important that they drink fluids during their recovery.
  • Let them use a blender to experiment with fruit smoothie recipes.
  • When they feel better, arrange to have some of your child’s friends over for a visit and a drink.

Use the table below as a guide to record your child’s fluid intake. Tick each time your child has a drink.

 Creating a sticker chart

  • Make a chart with a grid of square spots for your child to place the stickers. Find stickers with a theme that interests your child such as a favourite cartoon character.
  • Have your child help create the chart, goals and rewards. Children are more motivated and cooperative if they feel they are part of the solution.
  • Decide with your child how much he/she would have to drink to earn a sticker. Start out with smaller amounts as a goal, even a few sips of fluid are better than none.
  • Involve your child by letting them put the sticker on the chart themselves.
  • Add rewards by having your child earn something after collecting a set number of stickers.
  • Be consistent in your use of the sticker chart and your child will see your commitment.

Contact us

Ear, Nose and Throat Outpatients Department
Level 3a, Queensland Children’s Hospital
501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane

Clinical nurse
t: 07 3068 2563 (8am – 5pm, M-F)

Clinical nurse consultant
t: 07 3068 1889 (7am – 3.30pm, M-F)

Day surgery (4c)
t: 07 3068 3430 (24 hours, M-Sat)

Hospital switchboard
t: 07 3068 1111 (24 hours, 7 days)

In an emergency, always call 000.

If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Resource No: FS003. Developed by Ear, Nose and Throat. Updated: February 2015

All information contained in this sheet has been supplied by qualified professionals as a guideline for care only. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.