Your hospital survival guide

Top tips on making your stay in hospital fear-free and fun!

Beat boredom

You might think being poorly and stuck in a bed would be a bore. But think again! Bring your favourite DVDs and games. Avoid getting square eyes by packing plenty of books and puzzles too.

You might even get the chance to learn something new. Some hospitals have schools, which are a great way to pass time and to make new friends.

Top tip: Run out of games or books? Ask your visitors to bring you in a puzzle to do together.

Missing home

Fill your ward with photos and things that remind you of home. You could get your parents to write you a letter and friends to draw you pictures. Stick them up around you and, when you're feeling low, look around. It will remind you that home isn't too far away after all.

Needle nerves

Let everyone know if you are scared of needles. Tell your family and the doctors and nurses because they can help you to conquer your fear. Try distracting yourself. Plug in your iPod or read your favourite comic book. Injections only take a few seconds – you might not even notice it happen.

Top tip: Ask for some anaesthetic cream. It will make your skin numb, which will stop it hurting as much.

Speak easy

If you have questions for the doctors, jot them down in a handy notepad every time one pops into your head. You won't forget them when the doctor comes to visit and, if you're feeling shy or there's a frog in your throat, you can hand them your pad.

Never be afraid to say "I don't understand" or to ask what a word means. If you're still having trouble understanding, ask the doctor to write the word down or draw a picture to explain what they mean.

Help the medicine go down

You don't need Mary Poppins to help yucky medicine go down! Here are a few tricks:

  • Have a glass of your favourite drink close by. As soon as you swallow the medicine, grab the glass and gulp it down to get rid of the taste.
  • Try sucking on an ice lolly before you take the medicine – the icy coldness will numb your taste buds.
  • Swallowing a pill is much easier if you drink a little bit of water first. This gets the throat moving so it slips down smoothly. After you've swallowed the pill drink some more water.
  • If you're dreading the murky medicine, just remember – it makes you better so the more you have, the less you'll need!

Catch some Zs

Try to get into a bedtime routine. This will make you feel more safe and comfortable. It will also help to remind your brain that it’s time to shut off and get some rest:

  • Have a set time that you get ready for bed.
  • Make a relaxing drink like a mug of warm milk.
  • Brush your teeth.
  • Try to avoid watching TV or playing games for an hour before bedtime. Swap them for a book – your eyelids will be drooping in no time.

Top Tip: "Try and wear pyjamas only when you go to bed at night. If you make an effort to get dressed in the daytime, you will not only feel more confident but you’ll also feel more normal." Megan, 14 from her book, Chemotherapy, Cakes and Cancer.

In the bag

Hospital can be very warm, even in winter. Make sure you pack lots of T-shirts to keep you cool. And don't forget your toothbrush!

Friendly faces

Get your friends to come and visit you either one at a time or in a group. You'll get to see lots of friendly faces and, even if you're too tired to talk, you'l still be able to catch up with the gossip.
In some hospitals, you might not be able to have a big group around your bed. Find out about places in the hospital where you can go and meet up with them. Make sure you set up an email address too so that you can keep in touch using hospital computers.

Don't worry, be happy!

Being poorly can make you feel gloomy. But smiling and laughing will help you to feel better.

Top tip: Laughing makes your body release special chemicals called endorphins – these make your body feel happy. If you can't find anything to laugh about, watch a funny film or ask other patients or nurses to tell you a joke.