Precautions During Chemotherapy Treatment
Chemotherapy is a way to treat cancer. It uses strong medicines to slow down or stop the growth of cancer cells. These cells multiply faster than many normal cells. But sometimes, chemotherapy can also affect healthy cells that multiply quickly. For instance, cells in the stomach, immune system, and hair roots can be impacted. This might cause problems like weaker immunity, hair falling out, and feeling sick or throwing up. There are things you can do to reduce these problems and make your treatment safer.
Chemotherapy can make your immune system weaker, which means you can get infections more easily. To avoid getting sick, you can do these things:
- Wash your hands: Use soap and warm water to wash your hands often. It’s important after using the bathroom, handling raw food, and before eating.
- Carry hand sanitizer: If you can’t find soap and water, keep hand sanitizer with you. You can also use sanitizing wipes to clean things like doorknobs and ATM buttons.
- Avoid sick people: Stay away from people who are sick with an infection until they’re better.
- Get a flu shot (ask your doctor first): Getting a flu shot can stop you from getting the flu. But ask your doctor before getting any shots during chemotherapy.
- Avoid big crowds: Germs spread faster in crowded places, so it’s better to avoid them when you’re getting chemotherapy.
- Keep food safe: Put things that need to be cold or frozen in the fridge quickly. Don’t leave them out at room temperature.
- Be careful with grooming: Small cuts and scrapes can let germs into your body. Be careful when you shave, trim your nails, or brush your teeth.
Having Large meals
During chemotherapy, you might not feel hungry because of things like feeling sick, having mouth sores, or being tired. But even if you’re not very hungry, it’s important to eat. Not eating enough can make you lose weight and feel even more tired. However, it’s better not to eat really big meals all at once. Instead, try to eat a few small meals throughout the day. You can make a plan for when and what to eat each day to help you remember. Eating a big meal might make you feel very full and even more nauseous.
Raw or undercooked foods
When you’re getting chemotherapy, your immune system can become weaker, which makes you more likely to get infections. Foods that are not fully cooked or are raw can have germs that can make you sick.
To stay safe, avoid eating foods that are raw or not fully cooked like:
- Seafood that’s not cooked all the way through
- Chicken or turkey that’s still pink inside
- Meat that’s not well-cooked
- Eggs that aren’t cooked through
This also means avoiding milk or cheese that hasn’t been pasteurized.
If you have to touch these foods, make sure to wash your hands really well afterward. Also, clean anything they touched, like cutting boards or counters. To avoid getting sick, always cook foods enough so that they’re safe to eat. Different foods need to be cooked to different temperatures. You can use a food thermometer to check if they’re cooked enough. Germs can also be on raw fruits and veggies. So, before eating them, always wash them really well. It’s a good idea to avoid eating raw foods that are hard to clean, like:
- Leafy greens like lettuce or spinach
- Berries like raspberries and strawberries
- Alfalfa or bean sprouts
Hard, acidic, or spicy foods
When you’re having chemotherapy, your mouth and throat might feel different. They can become more sensitive and you might get sores. At this time, it’s good to skip foods that can make your mouth feel worse. This means avoiding things that are hard, sour, or spicy like:
- Crunchy crackers
- Chips made from potatoes or tortillas
- Fruits like oranges or lemons
- Foods with tomato sauce, like pasta sauce
- Spicy sauces like salsa
- Spices like curry and chili
- Drinks with bubbles like soda
It’s better to choose foods that are soft and not too spicy or sour. This can help you feel more comfortable.
Sometimes, having a beer or wine now and then while getting chemotherapy is probably fine. But since some chemotherapy drugs can mix with alcohol, it’s always good to check with your doctor before having a drink. Drinking lots or often while having chemotherapy isn’t a good idea. One reason is that alcohol can make some side effects of chemotherapy worse, like getting dehydrated, having diarrhea, or getting sores in your mouth. Also, both alcohol and chemotherapy drugs are managed by the liver. Drinking when you’re on chemotherapy can put extra stress on your liver.
Smoking can harm your health in different ways. It can weaken your body’s ability to fight off illnesses, slow down how fast your body heals, and increase your chances of getting other health problems. So, if you smoke while having chemotherapy, it can make your treatment not work as well. One reason is that smoking can make side effects from chemotherapy even worse. Also, smoking can change how your body deals with chemotherapy drugs, which might make the treatment not work as it should. If you smoke, it’s a good idea to try to stop before you begin chemotherapy. You can work with your doctor to make a plan to quit smoking and stick to it.
Ultraviolet (UV) light
Chemotherapy might make your skin more sensitive to UV light, which comes from the sun and tanning beds. If your skin is extra sensitive, being in the sun can lead to sunburn and skin issues.
Here’s how you can safely enjoy outdoor time while getting chemotherapy:
- Use Sunscreen: If you plan to be outside for more than 15 minutes, use sunscreen to protect your skin.
- Opt for Higher SPF: Choose sunscreen with a higher SPF rating for better protection. Apply it at least 30 minutes before going outside.
- Time It Right: Aim to be outdoors early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the sun’s intensity is lower.
- Dress Smartly: Wear loose clothing that covers most of your body. Don’t forget a hat to shield your head and scalp.
- Reapply Sunscreen: If you sweat or go swimming, reapply sunscreen to stay protected.
- Find Shade: Use an umbrella or something that provides shade to avoid direct sunlight.
These steps are important for keeping your skin safe and comfortable during your chemotherapy journey.