There have been many reports of how unhealthy hospitals are. Yes, there are sick people in hospitals but the staff — from the nurse who checks your vitals to the head of cardiothoracic surgery in his operating room — knows how to keep you healthy.
Here are a few steps you can take to help yourself stay as healthy as possible when you are in the hospital.
Stay clean and mobile
Many hospitals encourage patients to ask nurses and doctors “Are your hands clean?” before and after the patient is touched. Ask the same of yourself and the people who come to visit you.
Take active responsibility — don’t let yourself become a vector. It’s easy to transmit germs from the handshake you exchanged with your visiting friend to the nurse who’s come to check your blood pressure. It’s just as easy to stop bacteria from using you as a free ride. If sinks with soap and water are too few or too far away, make use of sanitizing hand gel. The hospital may be happy to provide some for your room. If not, ask a visitor to bring a bottle.
If you can walk, then walk. Even if it is just from a bed to a chair, make the move. Friends, relatives and nurses can provide supportive arms and encouragement, if you need it – and the comfort of touch is itself a boost to health.
If walking is out of the question, then sit up. It’s awfully easy to slip into the habit of lying on your back with your chin tucked into your chest. That’s not a great position for breathing or resting. You’re better off reading in a chair — another reason to take that walk.
Too tired to stroll even a few steps? Clench and release your muscles, working from the top of your head to your feet. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Ask your favorite nurse for advice on how often you should change your position in bed to help reduce cramps, sores, and the chance of developing blood clots in your legs.
Build a team
Before you go to the hospital, talk with your pharmacist and a trusted friend or family member. Make sure that they both have a full list of your prescription and nonprescription medicines, including that comforting herbal tea that helps you get to sleep. Bring the list to the hospital with you. If the hospital changes your medications or adds new ones, then ask your friend and pharmacist to update their lists. The list you bring will help your doctors. The updated list will assist you in making a transition to a healthful life back at home.
By working on fitness, talking with your medical support team (doctors, pharmacists and nurses) and making cleanliness a priority, you can take an active role in your health — through your hospital stay and beyond.