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General Anesthesia in Children: Care Instructions


General anesthesia is medicine that causes your child to become unconscious. The medicine can be inhaled or injected into a vein. It affects the whole body.

It's used to keep your child from feeling pain during a procedure. Examples of procedures that use it include ear tube placement, hernia repair, and tonsil removal.

General anesthesia can affect some of the body's normal functions. For example, your child may need help to breathe. An anesthesia professional will watch your child very closely. They'll make sure your child stays safe and comfortable.

It's common for parents to worry about their child having anesthesia. Tell your doctor if you're worried. They can explain exactly how they will care for your child.

General anesthesia is very safe for most children. But some health conditions can increase the risk of problems. Your doctor will talk with you about your child's health and if there's anything that increases your child's risk.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child rest when they feel tired. A baby may sleep longer between feedings. Getting enough sleep will help your child recover.
  • For the first few hours after the procedure, follow your doctor's instructions about what your child can eat or drink. For a baby, your doctor will tell you if you need to change anything about your breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.
  • After a few hours, allow your child to eat and drink a normal diet, unless your doctor has given you special instructions. If your child's stomach is upset, try clear liquids and foods that are low in fat and fibre. These include applesauce, baked chicken, crackers, and yogurt. If your baby has started to eat solid foods, your doctor will tell you what and when to feed your baby after sedation.
  • Have your child rest for at least 24 hours. This includes not doing schoolwork. It takes time for the medicine effects to completely wear off.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing. Symptoms may include:
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Noisy breathing.
    • Using the belly muscles to breathe.
    • The chest sinking in or the nostrils flaring when your child struggles to breathe.
  • Your baby is limp and floppy like a rag doll.
  • Your child is very sleepy and is hard to wake up.
  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse nausea or vomiting.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has a new or worse headache.
  • The medicine isn't wearing off.
  • Your baby can't stop crying.
  • Your baby won't eat within several hours after leaving the hospital.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.