March 15, 2020

Does a Chronic Sore Throat Have You Missing Work?

It might be time to get your tonsils checked

Man with sore throat

Only kids have their tonsils taken out, right? Think again. Many adults do in fact have tonsillectomies, and research shows they’re relatively safe.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

A tonsillectomy is removal of the tonsils when they cause difficulty breathing during sleep or recurring throat infections.

Experts say if you’re missing work for days at a time because of your throat, you should have your tonsils checked.

When do tonsils need to be removed?

According to Michael S. Benninger, MD, Chairman of the Head & Neck Institute, if you have mild pain and miss a day of work a few times each year, you probably don’t need to have your tonsils removed.

However, if you get really sick a few times each year — sick to the point that you can’t swallow, and miss 7 to 10 days of work each time — then surgery may make sense for you.

“When I decide whether or not to recommend surgery, I base that decision on intensity of symptoms, frequency of symptoms and their impact on daily life,” he says.

Tonsil surgery for adults

A recent study of nearly 6,000 adults who had tonsillectomies found low complication and death rates that were similar to those of children. However, researchers also found that the reoperation rate in adults was 3.2%, usually for post-surgical bleeding — slightly higher than rates for children.

This may be because a tonsillectomy is a more complex procedure that causes more pain and bleeding in adults.


To understand why, you can start by understanding the structure of a tonsil. “In kids, the tonsils sit mostly in the throat,” Dr. Benninger explains. “With adults, they’ve become recessed into tissue and are harder to access.”

Also, with repeated infections, there is more scarring, which makes the tonsils more difficult to remove. Adults prone to tonsil inflammation tend to have had many more years of infections than children.

Tonsillectomy recovery for adults: How long will it take?

“I tell adults to expect soreness for a week,” Dr. Benninger says. “It’s not a fun operation, and people can experience more pain than they expected.”

Adults may feel like they don’t want to eat much for 7 to 10 days, while a child may want to eat a hamburger on the day of surgery.

The most common complication after surgery is bleeding or dehydration due to discomfort.

Future research

Now, researchers are focusing on preventing infections after operations in high-risk patients. Doing so could also help reduce the need for reoperation.


“I want to see what we can do to reduce postoperative bleeding and lessen pain,” Dr. Benninger says.

At one time, researchers thought antibiotics could dampen pain, but later studies did not prove this was useful. Researches have also tried various coating solutions.

“However, no techniques have yet been found that are foolproof — and these solutions will be the golden ticket,” Dr. Benninger says.

Related Articles

Person lifting up their sweater, showing ostomy bag in mirror's reflection
December 6, 2023
Adjusting to Life With an Ostomy Bag: What To Expect

It can be hard to get used to the bags, but the freedom they provide is worth the challenge

Happy caucasian woman hiking in forest
December 6, 2023
Forest Bathing: What It Is and Its Potential Benefits

Immersing yourself in nature can improve both your mental and physical health

Woman looking in mirror and pulling skin until wrinkles disappear
December 6, 2023
Should You Add Collagen Supplements to Your Skin Care Routine?

Though popular with influencers and celebrities, there’s little research to back up claims that they work

A vaccine syringe in front of a passport for international travel.
December 5, 2023
Which Vaccines Are Required To Travel?

Plan early — getting the right vaccines can help you stay healthy on your travels

Person overheated lying on chair on the beach; heart rythym next to him
December 5, 2023
How the Heat Can Affect Your Heart

Sizzling temperatures force your heart to work much harder

nocovaine needle entering mouth with dental mirror
December 4, 2023
How Long Does Novocaine Last?

The numbness and tingling should wear off in about two hours

bearded man sitting crosslegged holding clock in one hand, calendar in other
December 4, 2023
Are Bare Minimum Mondays Good for Your Mental Health?

Rethinking your Mondays might make the ‘Sunday scaries’ a thing of the past

A sad couple standing on each side of a large broken heart
December 4, 2023
Yes, You Can Die From a Broken Heart — But No, It’s Not Likely at All

The emotional toll of loss and other strong emotions can have life-threatening physical effects

Trending Topics

group of hands holding different beverages
November 14, 2023
10 Myths About Drinking Alcohol You Should Stop Repeating

Coffee won’t cure a hangover and you definitely shouldn’t mix your cocktail with an energy drink

Person applies moisturizer as part of their skin care routine after a shower.
November 10, 2023
Korean Skin Care Routines: What You Need To Know

Focus on the philosophy — replenishing and respecting your skin — not necessarily the steps

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
November 8, 2023
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try