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What to Pack if You Have An Unexpected Trip to the Hospital


For many situations like going on theme park rides or flying in an airplane, it’s relatively pointless to over-analyze the ‘what if’ scenarios. There are other times, however, when it is wise to take precautions, and  a potential  overnight stay at the hospital is one of these times. According to a national survey, 6 percent of U.S. citizens stayed in the hospital overnight at least once during 2011. If you want to be best prepared, follow our guide to the bare essentials – and a few additional comforts – to carry in your bag at all times, to make an overnight hospital experience much smoother.


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There are a number of essential items for a hospital stay, and needless to say, most of these should be carried with you at all times, regardless of whether or not you’re planning to undergo inpatient care. If the items below don’t usually make it onto list of leaving the house must-haves, take this as a good opportunity to reorganize your bag and make plenty of room room for the following items and services.

Medication and Medical Details

If you take any regular medication or contraception, be sure to carry an extra packet to avoid missing a dosage or a tablet if you spend the night in hospital (or carry a note of the product name to easily arrange a replacement if needed). If you have any medical conditions or allergies, this information should also be easily accessible to paramedics and hospital staff in an emergency. The more they know, the more efficient and effective the treatment will be.


This app allows you to save ICE details (In Case of Emergency) so that emergency services don’t have to spend time going through your recent calls and messages to contact someone important. These details can include the people you would want to be contacted in an emergency, and information about blood type, medical conditions and basic insurance details. Be sure to include your doctors’ names and phone numbers too, in case you or the hospital need to contact them. The ICE app allows all these details to be accessed from a locked screen, without compromising overall phone security. To download the ICE app or read more about it, click here.

Small Change Purse

Get into the habit of carrying an additional purse containing a small amount of money. This small change will be very useful for buying something to read or eat from the hospital shop or trolley if you stay in hospital overnight, or to pay for a taxi home when you are discharged the following day.

Phone Charger or Additional Battery

An overnight at hospital will most probably mean making phone calls and sending messages, but this all depends on having sufficient battery power. It is worth carrying an external battery in your bag just in case. For additional practicality, consider purchasing one of the very small, portable batteries which is compatible with many different smartphone and tablet PC models.


Like it or not, hospitals are full of germs, so anything you can do to keep as clean and hygienic as possible during your stay will encourage a speedy recovery. In addition to killing germs, staying clean and fresh can really help to lift spirits despite the somewhat clinical surroundings.

Wet Wipes

These are indispensable for cleaning hands, removing makeup, and even for performing a wet wipe wash if showers are out of reach or out of bounds. Antibacterial wipes are highly advised as they double up as a hand sanitizer, too.


Leave the fancy electric brush at home, but be sure to carry a small light toothbrush like the pre packaged versions available in hotel bathrooms. These are ideal because they normally include a mini tube of toothpaste as well.


Hospitals take many steps to keep air dry, which is good news for inhibiting the spread of bacteria but awful news for moisture-starved skin. To combat the air conditioners, dehumidifiers and skin-drying anti bacterial gel, invest in a small tube of heavy duty moisturiser which can be applied to any part of the body.

Hair Accessories

There won’t be much opportunity for hair care in hospital, but a small fold-up hairbrush or mini comb takes minimal space in your bag and will help you feel more presentable after a night in a hospital bed. If you hair is long, pack hair ties or grips, or a hair band to keep that mane out of the way and out of your face.

Contact Lens Case and Glasses

Contact lens wearers might want to pack a spare pair of prescription glasses, because lenses are difficult to keep sterilized in the hospital, and the warmth and dryness of the ward can irritate the eyes.

Sanitary Pads or Tampons

If you’re overnight in the hospital clashes with your menstrual period, you’ll be thankful for packing additional sanitary products to avoid using the hospital’s standard issue products or having to wait to buy some.

Additional Comforts

Mobile phones, tablets and music devices will be top comforts if you are alone in hospital overnight, because access to social media, news and entertainment will be important. Traditionally, mobile phone use was restricted at hospital due to fears of interference with medical equipment. While recent studies tend to indicate that interference is in fact very limited, permission to use electronic devices varies greatly depending on the country, the hospital or even the ward. These days smartphones are permitted in most modern hospitals, but it is advisable to check at the nurse’s station before switching on these devices.


An overnight at the hospital is likely to include lots of waiting time, and time spent trying to fall asleep. While away the time with a good book or access to newspapers or magazines on your Kindle. To ensure the battery lasts for the duration the stay, invest in a small, lightweight and durable external battery adaptable for all Kindle versions.

Earphones or Headphones

Listening to music or podcasts is recommended as a good way to relax on the ward. Pack extra earphones or headphones, because although it might be possible to borrow them at hospital, no two pairs ever fit the same, and you won’t want any additional discomfort at this time.


It’s widely understood that hospital food is cost effective and unimaginative, so be sure to pack small lightweight snacks for an unexpected stay. Energy bars, cereal bars and packets of nuts have a long shelf life, so can be kept them at the bottom of your bag for emergencies. Pack hard candies to relieve nausea (ginger flavor works well), and a pack of chewing gum to ensure fresh breath for nurses, doctors and visitors.

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