Paediatric Anaesthesia Information

Anaesthesia in Children

To be read in conjunction with Anaesthesia Information

An operative procedure and anaesthetic for a child can be a stressful experience. The following advice may help improve this experience. When children come for an anaesthetic a lot of the basic principles are the same as adults. A notable exception is starvation

It is often more difficult for a child to starve for long periods of time so clear fluids (water, apple juice or BLACK tea with or without sugar) can be given to the child up to 2 hours before presenting to hospital.
Please remember that milk (breast, formula or cows milk) is NOT A CLEAR FLUID and should be stopped 6 hours before the start of the Anaesthetic.

Tips for Parents

Explain as much as you can to your child about the visit to the hospital and the process.

A basic schedule of what should happen is:

  1. They will be starved before coming to hospital
    • Help your child by not making starvation an issue, don’t eat and drink in front of them, encourage them to eat 6 hours before coming to hospital and giving them something to drink 2 hours before you get to the hospital

  2. You will then do lots of paperwork
    • Try and get as much of the paperwork as possible done at home rather than leave it for the hospital.
    • Bring toys, books, iPad to entertain them while you do the paperwork.

  3. You will then see the anaesthetist and may have premedication prescribed for your child
    • Try and keep your child calm after the premedication as they can be stimulated by the premed.

  4. You will wait for your turn to go to theatre
    • Bring toys, books, iPad, pencils to entertain them while you wait to go to theatre. Remember to bring chargers!

  5. You will be brought to the theatre waiting area and may have to wait some more.
    • Still have something to entertain your child while waiting and bring a favourite toy or cuddly with them as this can help in theatre.

  6. Your child will go into theatre
    • Most anaesthesiologists will allow a parent to accompany their child into theatre while they are being anaesthetised. This is not obligatory but is for the benefit of your child so they have a familiar face in an unfamiliar environment
    • Most children are anaesthetised using a mask and gas.
    • Drips and injections are usually done once they are anaesthetised.
    • This can be a very emotional time for parents as your child may cry, fight, move strangely and roll their eyes as they go off to sleep. Your child will become limp once anaesthesia takes effect. These events are NORMAL!
    • It is important to note that the process is not at all painful and that every child will respond differently
    • Leave the theatre quickly when requested to do so by the staff.

  7. Your child will be in theatre.
    • This can be a very long slow wait, go get something to eat and drink, bring a book or something to entertain yourself.
    • The anaesthesiologist may update you on the progress of surgery, but please understand that his or her primary goal is the care of your child. No news is not necessarily bad news!

  8. After the anaesthetic
    • Your child will be observed in the recovery room and you will be called to see an often grumpy, unhappy child when they awaken and in the first hour after returning to the ward.
    • Some children may be VERY confused following anaesthesia. This can be distressing for parents but, while it is obviously not ideal, it is a common reaction and will pass within a few minutes.
    • Let them awaken slowly.
    • Have something they like available for them to eat and drink once they are awake and allowed to eat and drink.

  9. Going home
    • Your child will be discharged when appropriate after you have returned to the ward. Make sure you have your medication before you leave the ward or hospital as you don’t want to be standing in queues with a grumpy child on your hip.
    • Remember to pack for a night in hospital even if it’s a day case!


Dräger have produced some useful and informative brochures designed for children to read to understand their anaesthetic.