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Chemotherapy and Infections

How to Prevent Infections During Chemotherapy

Most infections come from bacteria normally found on your skin and in your mouth, intestines, and genital tract. Sometimes, the cause of an infection may not be known. Even if you take extra care, you still may get an infection. However, there are some things that you can do to reduce your chances of infections. Below are some suggestions that might help prevent infections during chemotherapy:
  • Wash your hands often during the day. Be sure to wash them before you eat, after you use the bathroom, and after touching animals.
  • Do not cut or tear the cuticles of your nails.
  • Be careful not to cut or nick yourself when using scissors, needles, or knives.
  • Maintain good mouth care (see Mouth and Gum Problems During Chemotherapy).
  • Stay away from people who have illnesses you can catch, such as a cold, the flu, measles, or chickenpox.
  • Try to avoid crowds. For example, go shopping or to the movies when the stores or theaters are least likely to be busy.
  • Stay away from children who have recently received a "live virus" vaccine, such as chickenpox and oral polio, since they may be contagious to people with a low blood cell count. Call your healthcare provider or local health department if you have any questions.
  • Do not squeeze or scratch pimples.
  • Clean your rectal area gently but thoroughly after each bowel movement. Ask your healthcare provider or nurse for advice if the area becomes irritated or if you have hemorrhoids. Also, check with your healthcare provider before using enemas or suppositories.
  • Take a warm (not hot) bath, shower, or sponge bath every day. Pat your skin dry using a light touch. Do not rub too hard.
  • Use lotion or oil to soften and heal your skin if it becomes dry and cracked.
  • Clean cuts and scrapes with warm water, soap, and an antiseptic right away and daily until healed.
  • Avoid contact with animal litter boxes and waste, bird cages, and fish tanks.
  • Avoid standing water (for example, bird baths, flower vases, or humidifiers).
  • Wear protective gloves when gardening or cleaning up after others, especially small children.
  • Do not get any immunizations, such as flu or pneumonia shots, without first checking with your healthcare provider.
  • Do not eat raw fish, seafood, meat, or eggs.
  • Use an electric shaver instead of a razor to prevent breaks or cuts in your skin.
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