It’s important to prepare for your hospital stay.
Going to a hospital is inherently stressful, whether you’re heading there for a series of tests or elective surgery. Preparing for your stay can help make it less stressful, says Dr. Gary Mennie, chief medical officer for the Medical Center of Southeast Texas in Port Arthur.
“The more prepared you are before your hospitalization, the smoother your stay will be,” he says. “Packing a handful of comfort items will make your stay easier and provide you some of the comforts of home.”
Here are 10 items to pack for a hospital stay:
1. Basic toiletries
Mennie suggests bringing your own toothpaste, toothbrush and dental floss. Many people these days use battery-operated or electric toothbrushes and would prefer to keep using those brushes during their stay. If you grind your teeth while sleeping and wear a night guard to protect your teeth, be sure to include that in your hospital bag as well.
If you prefer a specific shampoo, hair conditioner or soap, pack those items too.
2. Books and magazines
You’re likely to have lots of down time between tests and procedures, so it would be a good idea to bring reading material, Mennie says. Want to read the latest hot mystery novel? Looking to catch up on a well-reviewed nonfiction book on contemporary politics? Feeling guilty about copies of The New Yorker that are stacking up in your bedroom? Pack them in your bag and read away.
“Reading is wonderful if you don’t want to watch TV in your room,” he says. “Otherwise you’re sitting in your room, bored.”
3. Cellphone, charger and earbuds
You’ll need your cellphone to communicate with family members. Hospital officials typically discourage bringing valuables — such as a laptop — for your stay. But cellphones allow you to send and receive texts and emails and make phone calls — just don’t forget the charger.
You can also use earbuds to watch TV shows, video and movies without annoying your roommate.
4. A comfortable robe and pajamas
If you want to wear something more robust than a flimsy hospital gown, it’s OK to bring a robe or comfortable pajamas, Mennie says. Some people tend to feel cold and will feel more comfortable wearing their own robe or loose-fitting nightwear.
These kinds of nightclothes shouldn’t hinder the efforts of nurses to check your blood pressure, draw blood or conduct other needed tests. Heart surgery patients, for example, need to have accessible chests.
5. Hearing aids and other health gear
If you use hearing aids, be sure to bring them to the hospital. It will be vital to be able to clearly hear what your nurses and doctors say, says Tanya Barahona, a registered nurse and patient educator at Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, California.
Whether your health care provider is asking about your prescriptions or symptoms, you’ll need to be able to hear the questions clearly. If you use a walker or braces, bring those too.
6. Identification and insurance documents
Whatever the reason for your hospitalization, you’ll need identification — such as a driver’s license or another government-issued ID card — and proof of insurance. You’ll typically need to show these documents at check-in.
7. A pen and notepad
It’s likely that your health care provider will be telling you important information about your symptoms, test results and procedure during your hospital stay. The volume of information may feel overwhelming.
“Taking notes is a good way to be interactive with your health care,” Mennie says.
8. Medication and allergies list
Be sure to bring a list of all of the medications you’re taking, including prescriptions. You should also jot down any allergies you have to medications. Your hospital health care providers will need to know what you’re taking, Mennie says. “If you’re on a blood pressure medicine and don’t remember, I don’t want to prescribe you a different blood pressure medication, or a medicine that interacts with the one you’re on.”
Mennie says he printed a one-page sheet for his parents, listing their medications, allergies and the names of their physicians, with contact information.
9. Your medications
On top of your list of meds, don’t forget to bring along the actual medications too. You’ll typically want to keep taking your prescription medication during your hospital stay, Mennie says.
Bring your medications in their original containers. If you’re taking heart medication or meds for depression, you should try to maintain your usual regimen.
10. CPAP mask and other sleep aids
An estimated 22 million people in the U.S. suffer from sleep apnea, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. Sleep apnea is a disorder in which your breathing stops and starts repeatedly. Snoring loudly and feeling exhausted after a full night’s sleep could be an indication of the disorder.
Many people with sleep apnea use a CPAP mask to help them get some shuteye. CPAP masks are typically made of gel-like materials, like plastic or silicone, though they can be comprised of fabric and hybrid materials, according to the American Sleep Association. The masks — which are securely sealed around the user’s nose or mouth — connect to a CPAP machine, which provides a continuous stream of pressurized air through an air filter into a flexible tube, which in turn delivers purified air into the mask.
If you use a CPAP mask and other sleep aids — such as a sleep mask or ear plugs — to help you get some shuteye, be sure to pack those items in your hospital bag.
These 10 items are essential to pack for a hospital stay:
— Basic toiletries.
— Books and magazines.
— Cellphone, charger and earbuds.
— A comfortable robe or pajamas.
— Hearing aids and other health gear.
— Identification and insurance documents.
— A pen and notepad.
— Medications and allergies list.
— Your medications.
— CPAP mask and other sleep aids.
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Update 12/16/21: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.