Are you due for a hospital visit? Here’s what doctors recommend you pack in your overnight bag
Going into hospital can be a bit like visiting another country, says Zoe Andrews, a matron for surgery at the Benenden Hospital in Kent.
‘The new routine and environment can feel alien and the language used is unfamiliar, so, just as when you go on any other trip, it’s important to plan.’
That starts with what you wear. You might assume pyjamas would be at the top of your packing list, but, while you’ll want them at night, evidence suggests wearing other comfortable clothes, such as a T-shirt and jogging bottoms, during the day can speed up your recovery, says Ian Currie, a consultant gynaecologist at BMI The Chiltern Hospital in Buckinghamshire.
‘People generally feel healthier and more resilient in their normal clothes, while wearing pyjamas or hospital gowns 24/7 reminds them they are a patient, which can slow recovery.’
But what else should be in your bag? We asked the experts for their tips.
Evidence suggests wearing comfortable clothes, such as a T-shirt and jogging bottoms, during the day can speed up your recovery (stock image)
Try: Sony headphones, £49.99, robertdyas.co.uk
Pre-operative anxiety can raise stress hormone levels in the body. ‘This, in turn, can slow your recovery,’ says Dr Currie. ‘We know music calms anxiety, so download soothing tunes to listen to before you’re taken to theatre.’
He adds: ‘A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania, in the U.S., found that listening to music reduced patients’ anxiety levels as successfully as taking midazolam — a common sedative drug.
‘Noise-cancelling headphones are best to drown out all the hospital bustle. This affordable set is comfy, folding flat for easy packing.’
Hydration is vital when you’re recovering, as it keeps your body functioning at its peak. Zoe Andrews says: ‘Dehydration can delay wound healing and lead to urinary tract infections — a potentially serious problem in older patients following surgery.
‘Drinking more water causes you to urinate more often, flushing out the bladder regularly, so bacteria don’t have a chance to take hold and multiply, triggering infection.
‘This bottle helps you monitor your intake. It has the times of day marked in increments, showing you how much to drink at different points to help you hit a daily target of two litres.’
Pre-operative anxiety can raise stress hormone levels in the body which can, in turn, slow recovery (stock image)
Try: Stay Cool ice towel, £7.77, amazon.co.uk
Maintaining a good temperature can be a challenge in hospital — it can depend on how mobile you are, your age, the time of the day and the environment, and sometimes hospitals can be very warm, especially in summer.
‘A product such as the Stay Cool ice towel, which keeps cool for long periods, can make you feel more comfortable,’ says Zoe Andrews.
‘It’s easy to use: simply wet it and wring out excess water. Its special microfibre fabric locks in the moisture to remain cool and damp for up to two hours.’
GINGER TEA & SWEETS
Try: Pukka Herbs three ginger herbal tea, pack of 20 tea bags, £2.50, ocado.com; Sula sugar-free boiled sweets, 42g, £1.19, hollandandbarrett.com
‘Ginger drinks help with nausea, so they could be good if you’re having chemotherapy, which can produce feelings of sickness, or after any surgery, as a general anaesthetic can leave patients feeling queasy,’ says Julia Frater, a specialist cancer information nurse at Cancer Research UK.
‘Sucking boiled sweets can help, too, as some patients find treatments such as chemotherapy leave an unpleasant taste or dryness in their mouth.’
Maintaining a good temperature can be a challenge in hospital — it can depend on how mobile you are, your age, the time of the day and the environment (stock image)
PROTEIN SNACK BARS
Try: Applied Nutrition protein indulgence bar, box of 12, £18.95, amazon.co.uk
‘I recommend patients pack protein and fibre-rich snacks — but check with your doctor first, in case your procedure has any dietary restrictions,’ says Rich Viney, a consultant urological surgeon at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and BMI The Priory Hospital in Birmingham.
‘Protein can speed up the repair of damaged tissue, while fibre helps prevent constipation from prolonged bedrest and certain painkillers.
‘Patients often like to graze while recovering, rather than eating three square meals. This snack bar is high in soy protein, low in sugar and comes in chocolate, hazelnut and even birthday cake flavour, so it tastes good, too.
‘For fibre, you can’t beat two or three prunes or dates a day.’
Try: Dormibene mulberry silk mask set, £8.99, amazon.co.uk
Hospital wards are brightly lit: most turn their lights down only late at night, and they never go completely dark, says Julia Frater, so an eye mask is a must.
‘Sleep is when the body heals, so the better you sleep, the quicker you will recover from treatment.
‘Hospitals are also noisy places, so earplugs are useful. This eye mask comes with a travel pouch and earplugs, and has an adjustable elastic strap. As it sits quite low down the face, it doesn’t let in any light around the nose.’
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