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Preparing for your child’s surgery – Fasting fact sheet

Preparing for your child’s surgery – Fasting

At the Queensland Children’s Hospital, we perform thousands of surgeries and procedures safely each year on children and young people. To reduce the potential risks as much as possible, your child or young person will need to fast before their surgery or procedure.

Your child’s *procedure time
A nurse will call you the business day before your child’s surgery, and you will be given an approximate *procedure time. The time your child needs to start fasting will depend on this *procedure time.

Why does my child have to stop eating and drinking before surgery?

If there is food or liquid in your child’s stomach when it is time to have an anaesthetic, it could come back up and then enter their lungs as they go off to sleep. This can cause serious damage. We appreciate it is hard for a child to stop eating and drinking before their procedure, but it is very important for their safety that you follow the fasting instructions you are given. If your child has not fasted properly, their procedure may be delayed to later in the day, or to another day.

Why are fasting times different for food and drink?

Clear fluids pass through the stomach faster than food, so they can be safely given closer to the time of the operation or procedure.

What clear fluids can my child drink?

The clear fluids we recommend are:

  • Water
  • Clear (pulp-free) fruit juices and cordials – i.e. apple juice
  • Non-carbonated drinks – i.e. Powerade, Gatorade
  • Ready-to-mix sugar and electrolyte powders – i.e. SOS, Poly-Joule, Carb Plus, Hydralyte.

Please avoid giving you child other types of drinks that are not recommended above.

When should my child stop eating and drinking before their surgery or procedure?

Sticking to the following fasting instructions will not only ensure your child is safe to have an anaesthetic, but it will also help to minimise the time they need to fast.

For babies (six months and under)

On the date of surgery:

Six hours before the *procedure time
If your baby is awake six hours before the procedure time, they can have food and drink. No further food can be given after this time.

Four hours before the *procedure time
Please wake your baby for a formula or breastfeed four hours before the procedure time. Do not add thickeners. This will be your baby’s last milk feed before surgery.

Until the time you arrive at the admission location
You can offer your baby clear fluids until the time you arrive at the admission location.

Your baby must not eat or drink anything else after you arrive at the admission location, unless this has been allowed by the nursing or medical staff.

For children and for babies (older than six months)

On the date of surgery:

Six hours before the *procedure time
If your baby or child is awake six hours before the procedure time, they can have food, formula and drink. No further food can be given after this time.

Please note:

  • Lollies are considered food.
  • Chewing gum may be swallowed accidentally, and is considered a food.
  • Thickeners and jellies are considered food.

Four hours before the *procedure time
Please wake your baby or child for a breastfeed four hours before the procedure time. Do not add thickeners. This will be their last milk feed before surgery.

Until the time you arrive at the admission location
You can continue to offer your baby or child clear fluids until the time you arrive at the admission location.

Your baby or child must not eat or drink anything else after you arrive at the admission location, unless this has been allowed by the nursing or medical staff.

Medications

Please continue your child’s usual medications, including those that would be normally taken on the day of surgery, unless told otherwise. Take liquid medicines as usual. Tablets can be taken with a sip of water or other clear fluid when fasting.

Please let your anaesthetist know what medications your child has had, including herbal medicines or supplements.

If your child is having ear, nose, throat or eye surgery, please do not give your child Nurofen®/ibuprofen in the 72 hours before their surgery.

Please stop taking all fish oils and garlic supplements at least one week before surgery.

Your surgical team will provide you with information specific to aspirin if your child takes this regularly.

Contact us

Please contact us if:

  • You want to cancel a booking.
  • Your contact details have changed.
  • Your child is sick. If your child is unwell with fevers, active diarrhoea, wheezing, or vomiting in the days leading up to surgery, please call the bookings office between 7am to 5pm on a weekday on (07) 3068 1125 for further advice and instructions.
  • You are running late on the day. If you are running late on the day of your appointment, please call the surgical admission lounge on (07) 3068 1790.

Surgical Admissions Lounge
Level 4, Queensland Children’s Hospital
501 Stanley Street,
South Brisbane 4101

t: 07 3068 1790 (Surgical admissions lounge)
t: 07 3068 1125 (Bookings office – 7am to 5pm weekdays)

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: FS106. Developed by Anaesthetics Department. Updated: March 2020. 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.

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