Headed for a Hospital Stay? Here's What to Pack
Last updated: March 2023
Being admitted to the hospital for a flare, procedure, or surgery is never easy and always brings about anxiety over how long the stay will be, what tests will be performed, when/if you can eat anything, and the outcome of what was discovered while hospitalized. And, if you weren't planning on being admitted to the hospital when you visited the ER, you can also feel anxiety over not having a bag packed and not having access to your personal items.
I have been admitted both unexpectedly and planned (as in "go home [from the doctor's appointment] and pack a bag because you are being admitted right now"). And I've compiled a list of packing must-haves that always make the stay a little more tolerable and comfortable.
IBD hospitalization packing list
Multiple layers of clothes
It's amazing how much your body temperature fluctuates while hospitalized. Between extreme air conditioning to night sweats, you never know what type of clothing is necessary. So I like to pack clothes that I can layer – tanks, shorts, hoodies, sweat pants, light cotton pants – so that I am prepared for any temperature my body decides to be during the day and night. Also, it is better to have a zip-up or simple wrap sweatshirt rather than a pullover so that it is easier to take off and on with an IV.
A thin blanket
Not sleeping in your own bed can be pretty miserable, but if you at least have something that is cozy and not hospital-provided to sleep in, it makes the nights a little more comfortable. I like packing a light blanket that takes up little space in my suitcase to either drape over me or bunch up for extra head support and make the bed feel more like home.
I specify "book" and not a Kindle or tablet for a few reasons. You don't have to worry about having an electronic screen charged in order to read and it is less distracting to simply have a paperback book in your hand than an iPad. I have found that reading on an iPad would make me drift into social media which then left me feeling down and depressed knowing there was a world going on around me that I was not a part of.
Also, when I was NPO (nothing by mouth) I was starving, and seeing ads or accounts pop up showing delicious food only made things worse. Stick to a paperback (or hardback) book and if you need to read at night, use your phone as a flashlight only!
Phone charger with extra-long cord
Speaking of phones and electronics, there seems to never be an outlet that is close enough to the bed that allows for a regular-sized cord to comfortably reach so that you can both charge and use your phone simultaneously. Make sure to keep an extra long charger on hand so your phone can charge and reach the bed for comfortable use.
Sleep is hard to come by in the hospital thanks to nurses coming in to check vitals at all hours, and if you have a roommate, thats twice the amount of nightly interruptions headed your way. A sleep mask is a good way to keep out light from your roommate's side of the room as well as from the IV pole that is most likely shining a blue or green light directly into your eyes.
I like to go barefoot or wear cozy socks while in bed, but the gripper socks provided by the hospital do not cut it, especially when walking to the bathroom. Packing flip flops allows you to walk more freely around the room and can get wet should you be able to shower (like the good old "shower shoes" of college days!), keeping you safe from falling and allowing your feet to stay clean.
I always have a small toiletry bag packed with essentials that I can just throw in my suitcase regardless if I am going on a beach vacation or to the hospital. Travel-size shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste, mouthwash, lotion, a toothbrush, and a razor can go a long way, especially when in the hospital. Feeling clean exponentially improves my mood and physical well-being and keeping everything in a convenient carrying case makes packing it on a short notice very easy.
Hospital toilet paper can be ROUGH. Using baby wipes is a nice way to keep everything soft and clean and are also easily portable.
Pen and paper
I learned this through many hospital stays that keeping a pen and paper is absolutely essential. I know you can always take notes on a phone, but when talking to doctors, it is more polite to jot down hand-written notes than to look at your phone the whole time.
I use a pen and paper to write down questions I want to ask my care team, take notes during rounds, and jot down reminders to ask my nursing staff. You also never know if one of your nurses or doctors is going to give you a book recommendation while they're there, too. ;)
Insulated water bottle
If you are allowed to drink or eat anything by mouth, this is a huge game changer. I always pack my Swell water bottle so that as soon as I am given the green light to drink liquids, I can fill it with ice and water and it will actually stay cold. The same is true for hot beverages if they allow me to drink tea, and always having a hot/cold beverage is refreshing after being NPO for a few days.
IBD hospitalization prep tips?
Are there any other important items you always pack in your hospital bag?
What has been the most helpful for managing IBD symptoms?