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Visiting SickKids

Eating and drinking before surgery

Following the instructions about eating and drinking is very important. If instructions are not followed:

  • Your child may experience a life threatening reaction called aspiration
  • Your child’s operation or procedure will be cancelled when you get to the hospital


Aspiration happens when food or liquid flows through the lungs while under anesthesia. When your child is sedated, their muscles relax and cannot protect the airways. Aspirating islife threatening and can lead to serious breathing problems.

Protect your child by following your doctor’s instructions

The rules about when to stop eating and drinking are designed to make sure your child’s stomach will be empty when the anesthesia begins. This will decrease the risk of food or liquid going into your child’s lungs.

Food and drink leave our stomachs at different rates. Follow these rules (also called “fasting guidelines”) to keep your child safe:

  • Please print out the instructions and have them available at all times.

SickKids rules about eating and drinking before anesthesia or sedation

The rules about eating and drinking before operation time:

STOP solid food at Midnight before operation time

    • Solids include liquids with solid components (i.e., orange juice, soup broth), as well as Jell-O
    • Patients no longer on bottle feeds should have no solids or milk after midnight
    • No gum or candy after midnight

STOP bottle feeds (milk, formula) or tube feeds 6 hours before operation time

STOP breast milk 4 hours before operation time

STOP clear fluids 3 hours before operation time

    • Clear fluids are fluids you can see clearly through (i.e., water, clear apple juice, ginger ale)
    • Jell-O is not a clear fluid

Any food or liquid in your child's stomach while going to sleep under anesthesia can flow up to the mouth and pass down into the lungs.  This is VERY DANGEROUS for your child.

If these rules are not followed your child's procedure will be cancelled.