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Fasting Guidelines


Your child may get sedated or anesthetized with medicines to help sleep through surgery, a procedure, a test, or a treatment. If a child vomits while sedated or under anesthesia, food or liquid in their stomach might get in the lungs. This could cause pneumonia or other serious health problems. To avoid this, your child needs to fast—go without food or drink—for a certain time period. We call this “NPO.” NPO is short for the Latin words nil per os, which mean “nothing by mouth.” These guidelines are for children who can eat or drink by mouth or need to be fed using a nasogastric tube, nasojejunal tube, or gastrostomy tube.

NPO – fasting guidelines for anesthesia or IV sedation
When you arrive at the hospital for your child’s anesthesia appointment:  STOP giving your child clear liquids and CT contrast
3 hours before the procedure: STOP giving your child breast milk.
6 hours before the procedure: STOP giving your child infant formula, Ensure® Clear, and milk.
8 hours before the procedure: STOP giving your child solid food, enteral feeds, Ensure, and liquids not listed as approved clear liquids.


PET Scan: Your child must stop drinking everything but water or sugar-free flavored water containing contrast medium at least 4 hours before a PET scan injection. The glucose in other drinks can interfere with the test.

Clear liquids

Approved clear liquids: Approved clear liquids include water, fruit juice without pulp, carbonated drinks without particles, coffee and tea without milk or creamer, sports drinks (such as Gatorade®), Jello®, Pedialyte® and frozen ice pops (not fruit bars). Carbohydrate-rich drinks marketed as “pre-surgery” drinks are also considered clear liquids, such as Ensure® Pre-Surgery.

Ensure® Clear and similar products are not considered approved clear liquids.  

Oral medicines before anesthesia

On the morning of anesthesia or sedation, give your child all medicines they would normally take unless the St. Jude staff tells you not to give them. Bring all your home medicines along with you on the day of anesthesia or sedation.

Medicines can be taken with a sip of an approved clear liquid and will not delay sedation. Medicines taken with any other liquid or solid food, such as yogurt or applesauce, will delay sedation and anesthesia.


The staff knows it is hard to keep children from eating when they are hungry. However, your child’s safety depends on you following the fasting guidelines.

If you have questions or want to learn more about fasting guidelines, please talk to your child’s doctor or nurse.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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