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Risk of infection associated with chemo?


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Hi everyone!

I need some opionions. My Dad went in for a scan last week and the results were good, tumor is shrinking and his airway is getting much better. He will start chemo again next week but will be heavy duty, doc says 3 times as strong as his last treatments. Said he'll certainly lose his hair and be sicker than before. The doctor didn't really mention anything to my Mom about the risk of infection but my sister did mention it to me (she's a nurse) and suggested anyone who visits Dad during these chemo rounds wear a surgical mask.

Here's my question. For those of you that have been through this stronger chemo or had loved ones go through it, were you/they susceptible to infection, did you or any of your visitors have to wear masks? We're planning on a visit to see my Mom & Dad in 2 weeks for Father's Day and stay the following week (me, my husband and two boys) but I don't want to be a risk to my Dad's health and it doesn't seem possible for all of us to wear masks our entire visit. I'm wondering if we should stay in a hotel rather than staying with them? My Mom suggested that my Dad wear the mask but we're not sure if he would - he's stubborn that way! I just don't know what to do.

Thanks in advance!

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Hi there, Kristi. We were VERY vigilant while I underwent chemo. There were never any masks, but we made it very clear that no germs were welcome. My hubby turned visitors away if there were any sniffles or anything like that. Regular precautions should be sufficient for your visit (as long as nobody is sick) such as constant hand washing. Kids are little germ magnets, so you should be sure your boys follow the same guidelines and if they happen to catch something, then yes, they should not be there. Sounds like dad is doing pretty good. That's great. You can have a wonderful visit, just keep alert for the invasion of the germs and take the obvious precautions!!! Have a good time.

Kasey

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Kasey is right. I don't think there is a need for masks if there aren't any sniffles or sneezes, but anti-bacterial soap, vigilance about hand washing and hygene.

I know I always kissed my dad on top of his head (himi sitting, me standing) when I left instead of on the cheek or giving a hug and I kept my kids a good distance from him.

His immune system will be really low but that doesn't mean you can't have a good visit.

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Hi Kristi,

It's your fathers blood (red cells, white cells, platelets) counts that plays a big role in terms (a low white blood cell count means your immune system isn't as strong as it could be and that you are at increased risk for infection) of infection (plus overall health) which they monitor during chemo to make sure they are at a certain level to receive chemo and not at a risk for infection etc. As mentioned by Kasey I/nor anyone wore a mask during my treatments but used common everyday precautions. I also have ITP (a blood disorder, numerous times my platelets dropped to 5) and never felt the need to use a mask but just used common everyday precautions. Below is a very good site with tips you might find helpful. Hope this helps.

Rich

http://www.chemocare.com/managing/infection.asp (Managing Chemotherapy Side Effects : Infection)

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I agree with all of the above regarding masks (no need) and hand washing, keeping sniffly kids and adults away, etc. (yes for sure). Another aspect of this is avoiding infection from everyday cuts and scrapes. Be very vigilant and never hesitate to contact the oncology staff about "little" things that you'd feel silly reporting to a doc under normal circumstances. During my first chemo regimen, when risk of infection was high, I was put on oral antibiotics on three separate occasions — once because of a broken blister on the foot, and twice because my port incision was healing poorly and becoming inflamed. Aloha,

Ned

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Kristi-

No masks here either but NOONE came in my house unless they used the instant hand sanitizer that was by the front door!!!! And I temporarily got rid of hand towels in the bathroom and put a roll of paper towels in there.....germs probably just brewing on those towels!!! And yes, if you are sick, stay out of the house and most of my friends were very good about that.

A lot of common sense approaches to this can give you a GREAT visit. Hope you have lots of fun and let us know all about it!!!

Hugs - Patti B.

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Gene's medical team warned us early on that his immune system would be extremely low and that we should be vigilent to make sure he isn't exposed. We followed one nurse's advice and put a sign on the door like the do at the hospitals...if you have these symptoms please do not enter. No one has been offended, they completely understand and you know what if they were it really wouldn't matter.... they don't need to come anyway!

We have a 6 year old daughter and we talked with her as well about the importance of washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, not using Dad's cups so he doesn't drink after us and get our germs. She has taken this as her personal mission... our drinking glasses are labeled to avoid confusion, there is hand sanitizer throughout the house...etc. Your kids might enjoy taking charge of this as well. It gives them a way to feel involved and like they are helping with your Dad's care.

My sister and brother in law were planning a week long visit back in early May but ended up with colds just prior to their planned arrival....they rescheduled. So I would say for your Father's Day visit just use common sense. If everyone is okay then by all means visit and stay with your Dad but reschedule for the next week if anyone isn't feeling well.

Oh, another thing is that they say not to clean up waste after cats and dogs while you are doing the chemo... I've taken over that wonderful job with some help from dear daughter:)

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Hi Kristi,

The only time I wore a mask was when I was changing the kitty litter. But believe me, I was totally paranoid about germs! I wouldn't touch any public door knobs with my bare hands. I was constantly washing my hands after being out in public. I was also told when my numbers dropped to stay away from recently vaccinated children and certain fruits and vegetables. No sick people allowed around me at all! If people in a friends office were sick? Sorry I didn't see that friend! Also when my numbers were down I pretty much avoided going out in public if I could. I also carried a little tube of Purell in my purse with me!

Dana

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Hi Kristi - Well, Glenn just got out of the hospital a couple of weeks ago after a 10-day bout with diarrhea while his hemo/platelet count was low.

I thought I had been doing a good job of monitoring folks, but Glenn is too nice. Now I am the gatekeeper for everyone. I also keep hand sanitizer by the door like Dana did. And since I have an idea when Glenn's low points are going to be, we've talked about days when he shouldn't run errands and when we will probably not have visitors.

I know some of our family and friends think I'm being paranoid but I'm not taking any chances. I did get Glenn some masks, but he probaby won't wear them so I'm looking at other options.

Good luck!!

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Thank you everyone! I don't want to take any chances either. I'll be going over the list of do's and don't's with my hubby and kids prior to arriving. I was really hesitant about going, so much that I was in tears but all of your advice has really educated me. I'm really excited about the trip now. My Mom is completely onboard with everything too and will definitely be more prepared once his chemo begins on Monday. It's funny how little the doctors tell you. Everything I know about lung cancer I've learned here! Bless you! I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. You're all in my daily prayers. :wink:

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the hand sanitizer was a hourly ritual in our House and we both worked , well I still do, in restaurants!!

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Mom got a Neulasta shot the day after each of her chemo treatments to keep her white bllod cell count up. That seemed to help keep infections at bay. We didn't get too paranoid around her, but she didn't go out much either on her "low" days.

I don't think you can go wrong with hand sanitizer and limiting visitors though.

Susan

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Kristi,

There isn't anything I could add to the list. We followed the precautions mentioned.

Whenever Bill was in chemo, (and is presently) we did and do ask anyone with a cold, or ill to reschedule visiting. We never used masks, but did use the hand sanitizer frequently. We also avoided crowds.

I liked the advice about the paper towels - excellent idea. We are having visitors within the coming week. Paper towels will be put into place in the bathroom, especially. I hadn't thought of that one. :)

Barbara

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I'm curious about why Westerners are so averse to wearing masks. The Japanese wear masks whenever they have a cold (nothing to do with chemo particularly) and they seem to outlive us by every measure so maybe there's something to it? (No, I don't wear masks -- but I'm not on chemo and don't have a cold and don't usually worry about contagion.) Just wondering...

Ellen

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but on the other hand look at the size of Japan and the Size of their Industrial out put and Air pollutants!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry for the late response, but if people were sick we told them to STAY AWAY. At my wedding my mom wore gloves, I did a note to everyone on the seats telling t hem not to shake her hand or hug her :) She also wore an air purifier around her neck. Better to be safe! If he won't wear a mask, see about one of those things you wear to keep germs away.

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