Fasting means ingesting no food or fluids at all for the period prescribed by your anaesthetist or doctor.
Fasting is vitally important. If you don’t fast, you’re at risk of breathing in your stomach contents during your procedure, which can be fatal. If you’re not adequately fasted, we may need to delay, postpone or even cancel your procedure for your own safety.
These guidelines will help you plan your fasting period, but always follow any specific fasting instructions given by your anaesthetist or doctor.
Fasting for infants under 2 years old
- Please plan for their last breast feed to finish no later than 4 hours before the start of surgery.
- For a morning list that starts at 8:00am, their last breast feed should finish by 4:00am. For an afternoon list that starts at 2:00pm, their last breast feed should finish by 10:00am.
- Please plan for solid food or a formula or cow’s milk feed to finish no later than 6 hours before surgery
Fasting for children older than 2 years
- Your child mustn’t consume any fluids, food, lollies or chewing gum for at least 6 hours before the start of an elective list (nothing after 2:00am for a morning list, and nothing after 8:00am for an afternoon list).
- In certain circumstances, your anaesthetist may allow water to be consumed up until 2 hours prior to surgery but you must discuss this with them before giving your child a drink.
Fasting for adults
- You must fast from all food, fluids, lollies and gum for a minimum of 6 hours prior to the start of your operating list.
- If you like, you can brush your teeth or wash your mouth out with water or mouthwash, but make sure you don’t swallow anything.
- In certain circumstances, your anaesthetist may allow you to drink water up until 2 hours prior to surgery, but you must check with them first.
How do I calculate my fasting period?
The operating list is divided into two groups, the morning and the afternoon. The morning list begins at 8:00am and the afternoon list at 2:00pm. Your fasting period is calculated from the operating list start time, not your specific procedure’s start time. For example, if your procedure is scheduled for 11:00am, you will calculate your fasting period from the morning list start time of 8:00am.
Your surgical team will always make an effort to ensure that the youngest patients are as early as possible on the operating list, so that they have the shortest fasting times.
If you or your child is scheduled later on the list, your anaesthetist may allow them a drink of water. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible, so it’s important to check with your anaesthetist before you take the risk.
Can I take my medication while fasting?
In general, you should be able to take all regular oral medications as usual with just enough water to get them down. Exceptions to the rule include diuretics (fluid tablets) and oral diabetes medications.
If you take insulin for diabetes, you may need to adjust your dose for the fasting period. Ask your surgeon or anaesthetist for more information about insulin and diabetes management during fasting before your procedure.