Hesperian Health Guides

If You Need to Go to the Hospital

If you need to have an operation or you have a serious illness, first find out if it is possible to be treated without having to stay in a hospital. If a hospital is the only place you can get the care you need, this advice may help:

  • Bring someone with you who can help you get the attention you need and help you make decisions.
a woman speaking
Operations are sometimes done when they are not necessary, or when a medicine could have worked just as well. Get another medical opinion if you are not sure.
  • Different people may examine you. Each one should write down what he or she did on a card that stays with you. This way the next person who cares for you will know what has already been done.
  • Before anyone begins a test or treatment, it is very important to ask what they are going to do and why. This way you can decide if you want them to do it and help prevent mistakes.
  • Try to make friends with the staff at a hospital.They can help you get better care.
  • If you need to have some kind of operation, ask if it is possible to have an injection to stop pain only in the area being operated on (local anesthetic). It is safer and you will get better more quickly than if you are given medicine to make you sleep during the surgery (general anesthetic).
  • Ask what medicines you are being given and why.
  • Ask for a copy of your records when you leave.

After you have an operation

a woman walking slowly and carefully near her bed
To keep your lungs healthy and prevent pneumonia, move around if you can. While in bed take deep breaths and try to sit up often.

Before you leave the hospital, ask:

  • What should I do to keep the cut clean?
  • What should I do about pain?
  • How long should I rest?
  • When can I have sex again? (If you feel too shy to ask this, perhaps the doctor or health worker can talk to your partner.)
  • Do I need to see a doctor again? If so, when?

Eat soft, mild foods that are easy to digest.

Rest as much as you can. If you are at home, ask your family to take care of your daily chores. A few days spent taking care of yourself can help you get better faster.

Watch for signs of infection: yellow discharge (pus), a bad smell, fever, hot skin near where you were cut, or more pain. See a health worker if you have any of these signs.

If your operation was in the abdomen, try not to strain the area that was cut. Press against it gently with a folded cloth, blanket, or pillow whenever you move or cough.

This page was updated:01 Feb 2021