View Full Version : Long hair in hospital

October 3rd, 2008, 12:15 PM
As I had been in hospital for two weeks some months ago, I thougt about how I protected my hair in there.
How do you take care for your hair in situations like that?

1) and most important: you are there for some reason and your health is more important than hair!

2) Hair feels best when left alone in fixed and not too tight place. So:
* Make a braid or two, depends how you can sleep best. I learned that braids can hold for two days, but keep in mind that there will be a detangling needed. A braided bun for the day can avoid many knots and has a braid for the night.
*Learn to comb while sitting (difficult for longer hair)

3) Maybe you will get an infusion or canula: then braiding could be difficult.
*Practice to comb with your other hand.
*I found two young hospital nurses who liked my hair and helped me braiding: I combed and parted my hair, then waited till they had some time. The did the beginning of my braid and then I could go on (du to canula I could not bend my elbow).

4) Maybe you will get an EEG. Think of the stuff they will apply on your head. A braid does good then. If your time to wash your hair hadnt come yet, a CO is fine (for the glue they use in Germany at last)
oh, washing:
5) Try to plan your washing (after EEG, when you have no canula...). And dont panic if you have no opportunity to wash your hair: this could be a way to lengthen your no-washing time.

6) Mind equipment that is used for you, exspeccialy if it moves: secure your hair!

And then: hair grows by itself. Getting in healty has first priority :)

October 3rd, 2008, 12:25 PM
I think this could make a good article for the article section once everyone chimes in. Just a thought. :)

I was recently in and out of the hospital, too. I kept my hair in two braids. When I couldn't do it, I had someone else do it for me. When I got home (but was still pretty handicaped from abdominal surgery) I still kept it in two braids, but added coconut oil, too. Kept the braids in place longer and my hair loved it.

As for washing it... I didn't worry about it at all until I was capable. Natural scalp oils will take care of your hair.

October 3rd, 2008, 02:38 PM
These are great suggestions. I am will be going to the hospital for surgery and a 5-7 day stay and have been thinking about this.

I was thinking of putting it in a bun on the top rear of my head for surgery (my bun's pretty small) with maybe a crochet bun cover. I was going to take your suggestions to not worry about washing until I can handle it (probably after I get home)I I was going to keep applying oil to the ends and apply my nightly scalp treatment which doesn't leave my scalp oily, but decreases shedding; DH will help.

Out of curiosity, did you guys notice a lot of shedding after leaving the hospital (either due to the anethesia or health issue, etc.). I had a hysterectomy in '06 and I really don't think I noticed much increased shedding after that which kind of surprised me.

October 3rd, 2008, 02:40 PM
Out of curiosity, did you guys notice a lot of shedding after leaving the hospital (either due to the anethesia or health issue, etc.). I had a hysterectomy in '06 and I really don't think I noticed much increased shedding after that which kind of surprised me.

I had a lot of shedding, actually. But, then again, I wasn't being too gentle. It was all about getting it detangled and in the braids again, not being gentle. I just didn't have the strength.

ETA: Most of my shedding happened after I got out of the hospital. Though, I know it started while I was there.

October 3rd, 2008, 02:53 PM
I didnt have shedding in hospital.
7 days of no washing is great :) I lengthend the time from 10 to 14 days while I was in hospital. And I could keep this no wahing time!
Just ask the nurses how they will treat your head during the surgery. Maybe you could get a cap before the surgery, and they will just cap you with a second one (hygienical reasons) over your first?

October 3rd, 2008, 04:16 PM
When I was in labor and delivery with Cricket, I had my hair in two braids. Mistake! After several hours of panting and sweating (hey, it's called labor for a reason) and then sleeping on it, I had massive snarls to comb out in the morning. I might have done better with a bun.

heidi w.
October 3rd, 2008, 04:23 PM
I think this is a fabulous idea for an ARTICLE!! Second!

The TOPIC OF THE ARTICLE could read HOSPITAL HAIR AND DETANGLING TECHNIQUES (in case anyone wants to reference for ideas on detangling for other situations where hair was bound up for a long time).

2 braids is the best way, I think, for preparing for a hospital stay or hospital test days. I believe it is best to begin, when preparing to enter the hospital, with freshly washed and dried hair, then braid. In this particular instance, I would recommend things I normally would never recommend:

Make the hair lie close to the head somewhat firmly (not overly tight). Too loose means more tangles for those days you will not be able to re-braid your hair. This also means to make the weave of the braid a little tighter than normal. Give a slight pull after each strand is woven into a weave set so that it's pretty firm.

The binds need to be fairly secure, more than usual, as they need to hold for several days to even weeks. SO in this instance you will bind a little tigher than normal. Scrunchies will slip out over time, so use those new bands that glide out of the hair that are found in drug stores, Sally's beauty supply (maybe Marie Clare's -- I've never seen them there), and the beauty section of a grocery store. They're kind of slick bands in small sizes and come in brown and black and hot colors too. They're intended to not pull hair but they can bind pretty firmly. You want a bind that won't fall out. (Cuz if your hair falls out and flops around for more days all loose, you'll have a serious detangling problem)

If you know your stay is brief, such as day surgery, another option is to consider a bun since the hair will be capped for surgery. If you will be in very long, 3 days and more, and likely unable to manage your hair in between, DO NOT BUN IT. There is a phenomen known as a 'bird's nest' which means hair is bunned and then becomes matted. If this bun becomes severely matted, there is no choice but to cut it off, then. I've seen pictures of this situation, and it's most unpleasant!

Braids are easily bundled up into caps for surgery, if that's involved.

The braids will hold for a long time. One stay, I was in for close to 3 months, and braided my hair, and didn't unbraid til I got home.

Note: many hospitals, the doctor must supply orders to the nurse to allow you to wash your hair. They don't always include that. But with shorter stays as the more common habit now (thank you insurance!), most won't encounter this issue.

This allows for sleeping with relative ease.

Once you undo such hair that's been braided a while, YES, you will have tangles in the nape of the neck area, but it's better than a matt of hair.


I agree with the idea that often while in a hospital a given arm may have a needle in it or an I.V. One time my neck had the I.V. in it meaning I had a limited range of motion for my head and sleep. Thus, yes, occasionally practice using the other hand to detangle in anticipation of a hospital stay and/or detangling on a side that you don't normally do. ETA: if the I.V. is low such as the wrist area, it's not unlikely that your wrist will be taped to a kind of board meaning you can't do much with that hand!

very wide tooth comb
detangling spray (such as a kid's detangling spray)
pin or needle

1. If you decide to involve hospital staff, make sure they understand that time must be taken.

2. Use a comb (staff is used to brushes)

3. Expect in this process to have some lost hairs! 2 reasons:

You haven't detangled in some time so it's normal to have more lost hair than normal as a way of making up for all the days you didn't detangle daily.
When you actually get tangles in this type of situation, expect some snapping and loss. It's not the end of the universe. You won't lose all your hair or even a lot, unless what you had done causes that as a side effect somehow.

3. Remove the braid binds very carefully. It's not unlikely strands will be caught up in the binds. Don't just pull the binds out.

4. Begin taking a braid out from the bottom. Start at the tippy ends and detangle with a wide tooth comb. SLOWLY, SLOWLY, SLOWLY, work your way up the braid. Take each successive weave out, detangle and make smooth all the way to the ends.

5. At a certain point, likely near the neck, you will encounter more tangles and especially kind of whirled hairs twisted. It will hurt a little, but proceed slowly. If you must, and you have the presence of mind ASK SOMEONE TO BRING IN A KID'S DETANGLER SPRAY! and use this to help you out.

6. If you've been in the hospital a long time without a hair wash, expect the top hair to be smelly and stringy, and what we call oily or greasy. Just detangle. The canopy of this hair that is close to the skull will have little whirls of twisted hairs.

You can redo braids in such an instance if washing the hair is still yet not an option.

One method of getting out tiny pin knots you might encounter is to hold the pin knot in your hand, and with your fingers pull the hairs up towards the sky and out to the side to attempt to loosen the knot. DO NOT PULL THE KNOT DOWN THUS TIGHTENING IT!! Sometimes you can use a pin or needle point to loosen the inner area of the given knot (from Lady Godiva).

As stated earlier, many hospitals have the protocol of a doctor's orders are required to get the hair washed, so you may well have to ask your doctor when he/she comes on rounds to please include that in the orders.

I did not know this, and kept asking the nurses who in turn never thought to ask the doctor. They made some noise about I could catch cold given my illness....I didn't believe them.

So, with I.V.'s hanging from the rack, and tubes in tow, I made my way to the sink in the bathroom.....and put my hair over my head and leaned forward and put my hair under the sink (I was about waist length at this time in my life; my current length, heading for the ankles this would never work!) and did my best. It was very tangly because I didn't even have shampoo. I used a bar of soap--that was all I had!

Mostly it's nice if a friend or family member or a nurse or nurse assistant has some time to help you. With not having moved in a while, or arms filled with I.V. or abdominal surgery, back, neck, .... you get the idea, this can be very painful. You may need to have someone help steady you, or take breaks along the way. Expect to be exhausted.

One other time they finally allowed me more than a sponge bath -- a full on bath, and the nurse washed my hair in all the wrong ways in the tub. But it was better than nothing. Again, my hair was significantly shorter than it is now.

NOTE: There exists on the market hair washing products that require NO WATER. If heading for an extended hospital stay, this type of product may pull you through for the meanwhile. I have never used them, but I know they exist and I have friends who did well enough with them.

Many hospitals have seats that fit into showers. I recommend using them if you are likely to tire easily in the process of washing hair. (A lot of us on this board tend to be younger, but when your body is in recovery from surgery or extended stay in bed, it's exhausting to wash the hair. This will surprise many who have heretofore have been generally healthy. So, if there's any question: ask for a seat for the shower to sit on.)

Part of the need for orders has to do with how wounds heal, and what should be allowed to have wetness and soaps and things touch that wound site. You may yet have stitches in, ..... there's all kinds of scenarios I can think of that do indeed mean a doctor should weigh in on whether it's considered 'safe' to wash the hair. Hair may well become skanky, but we don't want to aggravate wounds, or interrupt healing.

FYI: I have had 14 major surgeries and a plethora of minor surgeries and have spent overnights for tests, and extended stays for several months in the hospital.

heidi w.

heidi w.
October 3rd, 2008, 04:24 PM
Here are some other things to know about hospital stays in my experience:
The fastest way to get out of the hospital is to eat well. Exercise too! If you eat well for some time before going in, 2 weeks to a month, your body will have a lot of nutrition to draw on. This is especially true if surgery is planned. It takes nutrtion to convert to energy and blood and cells to rebuild tissue, to reconnect nerves, to rebuild ligaments, and muscle and even bones! So eat extremely well in advance, even if not used to it. Appropriate fats, appropriate calories, a wide array of vegetables, lean meats. OK if vegetarian...just saying if you eat meat, keep it lean.

Likely in advance of surgery they will ask you to stop eating and drinking a certain number of hours in advance and you will be given a cocktail of antibiotics to have on board to stem off any infection.

In surgery you lose blood. Period. So eating well will help before, and once out of surgery.

If having surgery, some of that excess fat that's natural is not the worst thing to have on board.

Immediately out of surgery, they will likely put you on some stricter diet such as liquids only. I once was only allowed ice chips (I could crunch ice but not drink water) and nothing else. This lasted for something like 2-3 weeks!! I lost a lot of weight. 40 lbs. If on an ammended diet for some time, that fat will become important. (This does not mean to have a tonnage of fat in anticipation of surgery, but don't fret if your body has some either. ) Um, and yes, generally once healed and out of the surgery, you will gain the weight back!

It's fairly common that after surgery they allow eating of solid foods, in my opinion, way too early. If you've only been out of surgery for 3 days to even 7 days, and you've been eating some amended diet, such as liquids, clear liquid.... (liquid diet is SO fun: let's see, broth, broth, broth....oh yeah, and orange juice....oh JELLO! gotta luv jello! LOL you'll be sick of it after weeks of it. Trust me on this Dear Reader). Don't go whole hog on the heavy foods, like potatos, steak, like that. TAKE IT EASY. Your body not only went through surgery but to do it they gave you anaesthesia: this means that all processes in the body are GREATLY slowed down!!!! SO, ramp up a bit. Go from liquid, say to lighter things like toast with butter; oatmeal; soup....softer foods. Even hold off on the roughage such as salads a little longer. Get your stomach USED TO having solid food in stages and phases, then introduce a lean meat, or a heavier item such as pasta.

ETA: If you eat hardcore solid food too soon, your processes are so slowed down that you can end up constipated. This is distinctingly uncomfortable, so take it easy. Build up to the solid food by going through soft food first. And no big desserts or pastries just yet. Pudding is good; pie is not -- not right away, anyway.

The docs protocols typically are that they wait for you to have a bowel movement and then order solid food as being ok. END ETA

Some foods can upset the stomach such as acidic foods, if on an empty stomach. Take it easy. ETA: take it easy on tomato sauce things, and overly spicy food at first....end ETA

Some medications don't interract well with some foods, so know what that is, such as several antibiotics don't absorb well when combined with milk or other dairy products.

If in the hospital do your best to move as soon as you can. Take a walk around the nurse's station. The hospital will demand you do this INCREDIBLY soon after surgery, in particular. It hurts. You should have an escort, but do it!! You'll heal faster and get your energy back. It'll help get that anaesthesia out of the system. It takes a while for all of this to get out of the body tissues!

Because of that anaesthesia, and because of building tissue and whatnot, you will be tired for months longer than they'll tell you. They'll tell you, oh, you'll be fine in a week or two....ready for anything. Uh-huh! It'll be much longer than you expect. I would say as much as 6 months out, depending on what you went through, you may still need to be taking naps. It's IMPERATIVE to sleep fully every night. A LOT HAPPENS WHEN WE SLEEP. Lots of healing goes on. (Back to the nutrition thing) So sleep. Take naps on weekends, or after work, and then get up and make a dinner or something.

I heartily recommend if on your own especially to make a lot of stuff such as casseroles, meatloaf type things, and freeze them. Soup. Soup stock. You will be eating off of them once home for a while.

If you have friends or family to help you (I didn't) ask them to help build up your freezer with healthy grains, get a vat of oatmeal (I love BOB'S RED MILL SCOTTISH OATMEAL)

made if only in for a few days. You can freeze blueberries and other berries to place in oatmeal.

Consider a stock of cranberry juice or similar.

Canned fruit will get you through. Use frozen vegetables over canned vegetables (canned veggies have A LOT of salt!)

If you know you'll be in the hospital overnight or only a day or so, you can make oatmeal in a vat and frig it, and just cut off a portion and put it in a bowl and microwave and dress it up as you would like.

Stock up on hot teas.

If you will be hot, get a fan for the rooms you're most likely to hang out in such as the couch and the bedroom.

If you will be on a walker or crutches, you need to think about making wider pathways in your pad, cleaning the floor area up, and making it easy to get in the shower, such as a bench near the side of the shower, or a seat IN the shower. (There are hospital supply places.) If you have stairs or upstairs bedrooms and you will be in a situation that you will have difficulty climbing, consider re-arranging things so you can sleep downstairs, or beef up the foldout couch pad for added padding/comfort if you might be hanging out on it a while. (It's hard to use crutches and walkers in the rain or on wet surfaces.) The shower and/or tub may need a matt placed down that prevents slipping!

Think about getting around in the kitchen. Clear the kitchen table. You will likely prefer sitting at it and doing things to prep food. You'll like this cuz you can get your legs under the table and the height will be right. You can put cutting boards on tables. IF you will be having back or abdominal surgery, or surgery on breasts or arms, you want things in a location you can reach them. Pile a few pots inside each other on the stove, not a high or low cupboard. Keep the cutting board handy.

Consider paper plates and bowls for a little while.

If you may be incontinent after some type of surgery (not uncommon!) go get a plastic liner for your bed and put it on in anticipation of an accident. You'll be glad you did.

Ask friends the first week or so to come over and help you clean house, grocery shop, and do laundry (especially if this involves stairs) Ask for help on a rotation basis so you don't always lean on the same person. Do your best to help yourself by getting strong as best you can. Depending on the type of illness, you can ask for more help. For longer durations there's programs such as MEALS ON WHEELS and various church organizations that have services that will come in and help. Catholic Charities is pretty awesome.

Prep clean towels and smaller cloths. Don't be surprised if you will be expected to look after and dress some of your own wounds. So have clean towels, appropriate soaps available and a fresh tube of neosporin. (Prevents little infections) I can't even begin to tell you the dressings I've had to keep after on this body! (You might even think of gauze and different sizes and tapes to use that won't rip off your body hair to have on hand. If such a dressing is needed, the hospital should send you home with a stock supply and instructions.)

If you have fresh scars, you will want REALLY SOFT SHEETS. You might like to change the bed for those fleece type sheets! (not for the pillow though!) I found some clothing really itched and fell in the wrong location -- such as if you have a new scar on a side or abdomen, no, you won't like slack bands, skirt locations, itchy fabrics for nightclothes, binding type stuff. You'll want loose clothing, even pants that hang low on the body and covered by longer-than-usual shirt!!!

Take vitamins. A good multi-vitamin is usually sufficient, but gingko biloba and ginseng and especially Vitamin B and B6 stress, B12, are good considerations.

Take your medicine as prescribed, full term.

Hope these ideas help people have a good recovery.
heidi w.

heidi w.
October 3rd, 2008, 04:32 PM
These are great suggestions. I am will be going to the hospital for surgery and a 5-7 day stay and have been thinking about this.

I was thinking of putting it in a bun on the top rear of my head for surgery (my bun's pretty small) with maybe a crochet bun cover. I was going to take your suggestions to not worry about washing until I can handle it (probably after I get home)I I was going to keep applying oil to the ends and apply my nightly scalp treatment which doesn't leave my scalp oily, but decreases shedding; DH will help.

Out of curiosity, did you guys notice a lot of shedding after leaving the hospital (either due to the anethesia or health issue, etc.). I had a hysterectomy in '06 and I really don't think I noticed much increased shedding after that which kind of surprised me.

Yes, in recovery from some surgeries and some types of medications and more likely just the shock and stress to the body, it's not out of the question to experience an increase in shedding for a brief period of time. If this keeps up after 3 months or more (again, within the context of your malady and medication -- I mean, cancer of some types take much longer than 3 months to work on!), then it's time to get back to the doctor to discuss this. It could be an indicator of other things going on then.

heidi w.

October 3rd, 2008, 04:45 PM
This isn't really a tip but when I went into the hospital last time it was due to my auto accident and I had my hair down in the car, well in half up.

The clip ended up digging in to the back of my head, gave me a lovely lump that's still there to this day, (one year later,) and when they put me on the c-spine board, they taped!!! me down so they inadvertently taped my hair with it. So when they un-did me at the hospital, they had to cut some of my hair off. =(

So be wary of hospital tape!

October 3rd, 2008, 05:25 PM
Great idea for an article! Let me give the health professionals perspective...

All hospitals now have a shower cap kind of thingy that you can use for a dry shampoo. We also have these really neat inflatable basins (invented by a nurse!) that ICUs and other high acuity critical care enviornments use on their intubated and bedridden patients. It does allow for the use of water and real shampooo/condish which is nice.

As far as the hairstyle goes for the stay, try to think of what you do to contain hair at night and let that be a starting point. If you sleep with it unconfined, than you will need to start thinking about different ways to keep it contained. The problem that I have seen with the two braids is matting in the back where the braids meet. I have had some patients who had their long hair in a scrunchy bun on the top of their head and that seemed to work well. If you have family that you can enlist to help you detangle, if you can become really good friends (or bribe them) with the Patient Care Techs (PCT) than they may be willing to take extra time to help you with your hair.

I need to say that the quality of the haircare that you will be offered directly correlates with the acuity of your condition. If you are having minor surgery and are on a med/surg floor for a day or two you will be getting more haircare than if you are in the ICU for 3 weeks. Critical care units like ICUs, NCCU, or CCU do not usually have PCT's as these patients are extremely critical and every activity of daily life is usually completed by the RN. In this situation, please be aware that the nurse's priority will be keeping you alive and hopefully your family will provide most of the detangling.

I agree that it is nearly impossible to detangle properly in the hospital (no matter which unit you are in) because of the cumbersome tubes and IV's. There is particularly an issue if your IV is placed in the bend of your elbow as when you bend your arm you will occlude the IV infusion. If you can request an IV placement in the hand, wrist, or the forearm, you will have an easier time of it. Heck, longhairs just seem to need Central or PICC lines so that we can detangle our hair! (nursing humor here. don't actually ask for this unless you are REALLY sick!)

October 3rd, 2008, 09:17 PM
Great thread! When I went to hospital for my gall bladder surgery, I was there for several more days than I had anticipated because I went in on a Saturday. In spite of the fact that people get sick seven days a week, apparently the hospital does not staff seven days a week. :crazyq:

Anyway, I decided to keep my hair braided in a single braid, and it was a great choice for me. Also, because my surgery was scheduled and not emergency (because by this time I had been in the hospital for three days), I knew I would have time to wash it before. And that's what I did, too. Washed it and let it dry and then braided it almost-dry. That saved me a lot of heartache after I got home, let me tell you.

The only thing I would recommend that was not mentioned, as far as I could tell, is a silk or satin pillowcase. The pillowcases in the hospital are horrible and scratchy and cheap. If you aren't going to be staying for a looong time, say a week or less, one silk or satin pillowcase will last you the whole time and it will save your hair a lot of wear and tear.

October 4th, 2008, 03:29 AM
What a good topic! Hubby and I eventually want to have another baby at some point and I have thought about how I would wear my hair at the hospital(this would be a couple years down the road of course!:)). I'm glad that I'm not the only one who has thought about these things!:p
I'm thinking a single french braid for me though, they are fast and easy and I have even gone to bed at night with a french braid and it has been nice and comfortable.

October 4th, 2008, 03:59 AM
Another idea which could help:

try these things out before! Even if therre is no hospitay stayind to come. You never know...

If you are to get an magnetic resonance imaging, you have to lie fixed for 15-30 minutes. I made one braid which was suboptimal for lying on my back. It started well, but after 10 minutes it started to pain, but I could not (was not allowed) move a millimeter.
So two braids would have been better.

Snow White
October 4th, 2008, 07:58 AM
When I went to the hospital for S, I did two dutch braids and then bunned the tails (for labor). For labor with R, I did a crown braid. After the labors, it was much easier to deal with my hair. I braided it or at one point with R I put it in two buns kind of up high so it was easier to lay in bed, but it was out of the way for nursing, etc. I could do normal detangling and braiding after their births because I had no IV or restrictions. The one thing was to use a little oil or leave in conditioner because the hospital air is dry.

October 4th, 2008, 04:32 PM
When I was in and out of hospital this summer, I got quite friendly with the anaesthetist. She said that she didn't believe shedding was a known side effect of general anaesthetic, and I haven't noticed any shedding myself. However, I do know several people who swear they've had a lot of shedding after going under general. Weird...

I generally did my hair in a single braid over one shoulder with a scrunchie. Sometimes I did rope braids or multi-strand braids (I got really bored in there). I ended up giving the scrunchie to the lady in the next bed, who I'd made friends with. I hope she wears it and thinks of me. :flower:

October 6th, 2008, 11:45 AM
Good idea to make an article of this thread. But some native speaker should read it before it could be published ;)