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Should chemotherapy patients and newborns keep a distance?


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Hi everyone. When Bill first started to receive chemotherapy treatments, our daughter (who lives in England) told us that when she gave birth to our granddaughter, the doctors told her that the baby should not be around people who are having chemotherapy.

Fast forward to today. Our niece, who lives close by and who we see regularly, is about to give birth to her second baby today (yeah!). Obviously, we'll pose the question to the doctors too, but has anyone else been told to stay away from newborns during chemotherapy? Bill's using Neulasta and hasn't been told to stay out of crowds since his levels dropped after the first cycle.

Thanks and Merry Christmas to you all.

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I don't know a lot, so I do hope Dr. West has time to answer this one. I cannot find anything specific on the web. I did find the following regarding general precautions around children from the "Chemocare" site, and here it is:

Infants, babies and children:

Contact with human feces (diaper changing) can potentially expose people to a variety of infections. It is preferable that another family member be the principal diaper changer when you suffer from low blood count. But if it becomes necessary, wash hands thoroughly after changing diapers, and avoid caring for babies with diarrhea. Wear gloves if at all possible.

Avoid contact (kissing, hugging) children who have been exposed to childhood diseases or "who do not feel well." This is especially applicable for children exposed to chickenpox and have not been vaccinated, or had the disease. If the immunosuppressed person has not had chickenpox, discuss the possibility of vaccination with your physician.

Most of the time however, hugging and kissing your family members and close friends is fine!

By the way, when is your grandchild due to arrive?

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I remember my girlfriend being told to not kiss or have her grandkid's kiss her during chemo. Not a lot of skin to skin contact. She was also told to not use same drinking cups, flush toilet twice after using, etc.

I think she said that the doctor told her she would be a little on the toxic side for her grandkids.

The patient's immune system thing is also a consideration, but certainly not from a newborn.


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I'm not sure about this but I'll tell you my situation at the moment. My baby turned 12 months old on November 29th and was due for four vaccinations. Two of those vaccines were live virus's "chicken pox and measles". My pediatrician, who also knows me well and my situation decided that since I had just gone through Chemo and was due for another round thought it best not to give the live virus vaccines as he felt it was risky to me if my blood counts should drop. Fast forward, I did not get the second chemo (cancer progressed). New chemo regimen starts next week. I'm waiting for oncologist and pediatrician to tell me what to do. I do not want to risk my baby catching the measles but I don't want to risk my health either so I'm waiting on opinions.

I have also been reminded by my pediatrician to watch for any bad colds any of the kids bring home.


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Thanks everyone for the info. I have posted on Onctalk and I'll let you all know what Dr. West has to say. Honestly, I had never heard or read it anywhere either -- except when my step-daughter mentioned it.

I have read the general precautions about physical contact, live viruses vaccines, etc. That all makes perfect sense.

My niece is having contractions as I write this, so I imagine our great-nephew will be on his way into our world shortly!

Lilly, you're in a tough spot with the little ones at home. I trust your docs will stear you in the right direction about the vaccines. I wish you the best.

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I can’t think of any reason why a patient on chemo would be more of a risk to a newborn than any other person. A sick person, whether adult or a child, could be a risk to a person on chemo if the person on chemo has low blood counts and is somewhat immunosuppressed, but even that isn’t most of the time for a patient on chemo. The period of significant neutropenia (low white blood cell counts) and therefore greater risk for infection would be just a few days of every chemo cycle for most lung cancer regimens, and many patients don't drop their counts enough to ever be at very high risk for infections.

So no, I don’t believe there is any significant health risk to a baby from a patient on chemo, and would say that a healthy baby or other people shouldn’t really be a risk to a chemo patient either.

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