Swimming After a Tonsillectomy

A tonsillectomy is not fun at the best of times, but at least it gets kids get a free week or so off school. The bad news is if those kids love swimming, they'll have to spend that free time on dry land. The affected area needs extra time to heal properly, so swimming right away not an option.

Young girl swimming in pool (Image: Miroslav Ferkuniak/iStock/Getty Images)

Scab Time

Tonsils is a general term that refers to several different parts of the mouth. It's called a tonsillectomy when the palatine tonsils are removed. These tissues at each side of the top of the throat are subject to repeat infections, which is why they need to be cut out. The area has to then scab over and heal before the child can return to normal activities such as swimming. It takes five to 10 days for the scab to fall off.

Swimming Avoidance

If you're unsure about just how long to avoid swimming after the surgery, ask the healthcare team performing the operation. Professional opinions vary. For example, the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh says kids can go back to swimming after two to three weeks, and Johns Hopkins says that all vigorous activity should be avoided for two weeks.

There Might Be Blood

Doctors don't want recovering patients to take any action that could encourage bleeding in the impacted area. Swimming could do that, and that's why most want to avoid such action for at least two weeks. Bleeding is a great concern with tonsillectomy recovery even if the patient never goes into a pool. Some doctors ask parents to wake the child up the first night to check for any signs of blood.

What to Do

Parents should only allow their child to play quietly during the recovery time. Swimming and other motion-heavy sports could also cause problems that could hamper the scab process. There's a chance the child won't feel up to swimming anyway. Among the many common post-surgery possibilities are nausea, fever and pain in the head, neck and ears.

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