Why am I not allowed to eat or drink anything before being put to sleep and having my operation?

A long way down your throat is the entrance to your lungs and the tube to your stomach that are very close to each other. You have a flap in your throat, called the epiglottis, that closes the entrance to your lungs when you swallow food to prevent the food from going into your lungs instead of your stomach. When you are anaesthetised, your body is very relaxed and the epiglottis does not work as well as when you are awake. If you have some food or liquids in your stomach, it is possible that this can get into your lungs. Getting food in your lungs is not good for you and can make you very ill. It is therefore important that your stomach is empty when you are going to be put to sleep for an operation. So be honest when someone asks you whether you’ve had anything to eat or drink!

Why does my stomach grumble when I am hungry?

We have muscles around our stomach and bowels. When we get hungry these muscles start to work and your stomach and bowels start to move. Air and gases trapped there start to move around and sound as though your stomach is grumbling.

Why do I have to put on such strange clothes when I am going to be put to sleep and operated on?

When you are going to have an operation, everything needs to be as clean as possible to prevent any dirt and bacilli getting in the surgical wound. This is why you need to change out of your normal clothes and put on a special clean hospital gown before you are taken to the operating theatre.

Why do I need to have a plaster with ointment on my hand or arm when I am going to be put to sleep and operated on?

The plaster that is put on your hand or arm before an operation is no ordinary plaster. It is a plaster with a special ointment that stops you feeling anything there. It makes your skin numb. It is a bit like putting the skin under the plaster to sleep. We put this kind of plaster on your skin before you have an injection. The plaster and ointment mean you feel much less of a sting.

Why do I have to have an injection when I am going to be put to sleep and operated on?

When you are going to have an operation, we need to put a small plastic tube into a blood vessel. To insert the plastic tube in the blood vessel, we need to make a little hole in your skin with a small needle. Then the needle is removed and you just have the plastic tube in your hand or arm. As you only have the plastic tube in you, you can move much more freely. You can then be given fluids and different medicines directly into your blood stream without having to use the needle again. Much better, don’t you think?

I can’t see any blood vessels at all on my hands or in the crook of my arm. Does that mean I won’t be able to have a tube put in?

Don’t worry, it’ll be fine. Finding a good place to insert the needle is harder with some people than with others, but we can always get the job done. Blood vessels are everywhere, even though they might not be all that easy to see. In that case, you can often feel where they are instead. The person who’ll be inserting your tube knows where to look, and they’re really good at finding them!

I have dark skin and I can’t really see any blood vessels. Can a plastic tube like that be inserted in my arm?

Oh yes, it’ll be fine. The strap that’ll be put around your arm will make it easier to both see and feel your blood vessels. The person who’ll be inserting the tube has had lots of practice at hunting for blood vessels, too, and they can feel where they are even if they can’t see them.

Why do I have a drip?

You must not eat or drink anything before you are going to be put to sleep and operated on. We give you some extra fluid with nourishment so your body does not feel too hungry or thirsty. We usually say you are put on a drip. The drip is in a bag that hangs on your bed or on a stand next to your bed. The fluid in the bag drips into your body through a long tube that is connected to the little plastic tube in the blood vessel. The bag contains water, salt, sugar and sometimes medicines, exactly what your body needs before, during and after an operation. The drip is often still there when you wake up after your operation.

Why is the bag of fluid you have before, during and after an operation, called a drip?

Well, this is simply because the fluid in the bag drips into your body, drop by drop.

Why do I have to have a shower and wash myself with special soap before my operation?

You always have some bacteria on your skin, that is completely normal. But if the bacteria on your skin were to end up in the wrong place in your body, this can make you ill. Under no circumstances must bacteria get into your surgical wound. It is therefore very important that you have a shower and wash your body and hair carefully with special soap that removes skin bacteria before your operation. It is important that you wash the whole of your body in the shower, not just where you are going to be operated on. Sometimes you need to have several showers. The personnel in the hospital will explain what you should do.

Why does the doctor draw on me before my operation?

The doctor draws on you with a special pen showing exactly where you are going to be operated on before your operation. The doctor does this to make sure all of us who are looking after you know where your operation is going to be done. This is especially important if you are going to be operated on one of the body parts of which you have two, such as your arms, hands, feet and legs. Sometimes the doctor draws an arrow, sometimes a line and sometimes maybe even a cartoon figure. It actually does not matter what the doctor draws or even if it is in exactly the right place, but you must always have some kind of drawing on you before you can have your operation.

Why do I have to wear a bracelet with my name and date of birth on?

Everyone who is staying in hospital must wear a bracelet showing their name and date of birth. This is to ensure that the people who work in the hospital are totally sure that we have the right child and are looking after you in the best way. When you are asleep, the bracelet is extra important as we cannot ask you your name and when you were born at that time.

Why does everyone ask me my name and my date of birth?

Many different people work in the hospital and you will meet many of us. All of us looking after you need to be totally sure that we are treating the right child. That’s why we will ask you your name and date of birth many times. Naturally, it is also nice to know your name, but there is actually a law that says we must always ask you your name and date of birth before doing anything for you. We understand that it can feel a bit repetitive sometimes, but we promise that you will never forget your date of birth once you have been in hospital.

Why do I have to take off all my jewellery before I am put to sleep and operated on?

When you have an operation you can bleed a bit, this is completely normal. We use a special apparatus that closes the small blood vessels in the surgical wound to stop this bleeding. If you are wearing jewellery, there is a risk that this apparatus can leave small marks on your skin where your jewellery was sitting. This is why it is important that you remove necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings before an operation. If you have rings or studs in a piercing, you must also remove these.

Why must I remove nail varnish and lipstick before I am put to sleep and operated on?

To be certain that you are fully asleep during your operation, we check lots of different things. We also look at and examine you carefully all the time to check you are feeling OK. The colour of your nails and lips is one of the things that show how you are feeling when you are asleep. If you are wearing lipstick, nail varnish or false nails, it is harder for us to see how you are feeling. This is why it is better to remove all these kinds of make-up before you come to us in the operating theatre.