Having an operation can be a daunting prospect as an adult, even more so for a child. All children (except very young infants) should know what is going to happen in words they understand. The best time to tell your child varies with age – a rough rule of thumb is their age in days. For example, tell 2-3 yr olds 2-3 days before; and 4-7 year olds 4-7 days before coming to hospital. Older children are commonly involved in planning their surgery so already have an understanding of what’s coming up.

A useful tool to introduce the subject of coming for an anaesthetic is the video below. Watch it with your child so they have an idea of what to expect on the day.

Many thanks to University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust for making this video freely available.

Fasting & Your Child
• 6 Hours before coming into hospital: Give your child a light meal (limit fatty foods as they take longer to digest)
• 4 Hours before coming into hospital: Your baby can have their last breastfeed or breastmilk / formula bottle

All children can have clear fluids (eg. clear apple juice, water, water ice blocks like Icy Poles) up until the time they are called into the operating theatre. This does NOT include milk-based drinks or jelly.

What Happens When You Arrive?
If your child is 6 years old or over your nurse will apply some numbing cream to the back of your child’s hands, and usually the inside of one of their elbows. This enables your Anaesthetist to offer your child the choice of anaesthetic technique. This is an important step as it empowers your child by giving them the choice of anaesthetic, rather than the choice being made for them.

It is usual to have a period of waiting before it is your child’s turn for their procedure. Although the hospital and operating team try to minimise the amount of time patients spend waiting for their turn, it is impossible to be able to predict times so accurately that there is no waiting. We appreciate it can be difficult to keep tired hungry children occupied during this time. It is useful to bring activities that your child enjoys – colouring, books to read or some sort of screen device are usual favourites. It is also worth bringing a favourite toy or comforter.

You know your child best. If you wish to flag any behavioural issues, or concerns you have had with your child’s previous anaesthetics, please email us. Your Anaesthetist will either call you in the days leading up to the procedure or devise a plan with you and your child on the day of the procedure. Your specific concerns can be most effectively addressed if you contact us as soon as possible.