If you are undergoing chemotherapy treatment, you understand that chemo kills cancer cells. You most likely also know that chemotherapy also kills the healthy cells that help your body to fight infection, so your immune system is compromised. Your body is vulnerable during chemotherapy treatment, and it is important to take whatever precautions necessary to prevent an infection that could further weaken your body and affect your treatment plan. Here are some simple steps that you can take to avoid infections during chemotherapy treatment.
- Keep your hands clean. It is recommended that, for proper washing, you spend at least 20 seconds washing your hands. Be sure to always wash your hands before and after eating, using the bathroom, or touching children or animals.
- Maintain a healthy diet. To keep your body well fueled to fight infections, make sure you eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals. Protein is especially important, as it helps the immune system to fight and prevent infections. Eating while you are undergoing chemotherapy may be difficult as a result of chemotherapy side effects, so you may want to work with a dietician to ensure you are taking in adequate calories. A multivitamin can help supplement a diminished diet.
- Be vigilant about food safety. To avoid illness, exercise care and caution when preparing and handling food. Be sure to cook all meat and poultry thoroughly to kill any bacteria. Take care not to contaminate cooking surfaces, cutting boards, and counters with raw meat juices. Do not eat any raw foods, such as eggs, fish, seafood, and meat, as these raw foods pose a high risk of causing infection.
- Maintain good oral hygiene. Though your gums may be sensitive during chemotherapy treatment, it is very important that you brush your teeth with a very soft toothbrush after all meals and before bedtime. Speak with your doctor or dentist about whether flossing is a good idea for you during chemotherapy.
- Keep your skin healthy. Skin that is dry is likely to crack or break, becoming susceptible to infections. Do not pick or scratch at any blemishes or sores, which could place you at a higher risk for infection.
- Keep your body clean. Be sure to take a warm shower or bath every day.
- Avoid people who are sick. Stay away from people who have colds, the flu, chicken pox, measles, or other contagious illnesses. You should also steer clear of people who have recently had a “live virus” vaccination.
- Avoid injury. When your body is weakened by chemotherapy, it is especially important to avoid accidents and other sources of injury. If you do happen to get cut or injured, wash the area with warm water and antiseptic, and keep it covered.