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Tips on Preventing Infection Related to Chemotherapy
Symptoms of Infection
- Fever (over 100.5°F [38°C])
- Redness, swelling, or tenderness, especially around a wound or incision area or IV port
- Cough or sore throat
- Ear ache, headache, or stiff neck
- Sinus pain or pressure
- Stomach ache
- Loose bowel movements
- Frequent urgency to urinate or a burning feeling when you urinate
- Unusual vaginal discharge or itching
- Blisters on the lips or skin
Tips to Help Prevent Infection
- Wash your hands often during the day. Be sure to wash your hands before you eat, after you use the bathroom, and after touching animals.
- Use wipes to clean places that you touch a lot, like the telephone receiver or door knobs.
- Clean your rectal area gently but thoroughly after each bowel movement. If the area becomes irritated, tell your healthcare team. Also, check with your team before using enemas or suppositories.
- Stay away from people who have illnesses you can catch, such as a cold or the flu. In addition, stay away from anyone who has received a vaccine that contains a live virus, such as the nasal flu or chickenpox vaccine.
- Talk to your healthcare team before getting any vaccines.
- Try to avoid crowds. For example, go shopping or to the movies when the stores or theaters are least likely to be busy. Consider wearing a breathing mask.
- Be careful with your skin by:
- Not cutting or damaging the cuticles around your nails
- Using an electric shaver instead of a razor
- Being gentle when using sharp objects, like scissor, needles, or knives
- Not picking at pimples or other skin irritations
- Using lotion on dry skin
- Taking good care of any cuts or scrapes by cleaning them and applying a bandage if needed
- Using warm (not hot) water to clean yourself and gently patting your skin dry
- Take good care of your mouth and gums by brushing your teeth with a soft toothbrush.
- If you have pets, ask a family member to change the litter box, clean up after the dog, and care for the fish tank, and bird cage.
- Wear protective gloves when gardening or cleaning up after others, especially small children.
- Store foods at the right temperature. Do not consume food or drinks that are spoiled. Also, avoid eating raw or undercooked food.
American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org
National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov
BC Cancer Agency http://www.bccancer.bc.ca
Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca
Chemotherapy and you. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/chemotherapy-and-you.pdf. Published June 2011. Accessed March 5, 2014.
Infections in people with cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002871-pdf.pdf. Accessed March 5, 2014.
Toxicities of chemotherapeutic agents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 11, 2014. Accessed March 5, 2014.
Understanding chemotherapy: a guide for patients and families. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003025-pdf.pdf. Accessed March 5, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 03/2014
- Update Date: 00/30/2014