How to avoid colds & infections while going through chemo

Your immune system is extremely vulnerable when you are going through chemotherapy. Your medical team will advise you in detail about this and it’s important to follow all of their instructions as carefully as you can.

I was very fortunate not to pick up any colds/infections while I was going through chemo. I did, however, work pretty hard at staying away from germs and may have driven those around me a little bit stir-crazy in the process… But, it was only for a short while! I think they have forgiven me since then… Here are my top tips for staying healthy during chemotherapy.

5 tips for staying healthy during chemotherapy

good vibes only

Photo by MARK ADRIANE on Unsplash

  1. Become scrupulous about hand hygiene

    Wash your hands well after using the bathroom, even in your own house, every time. Wash your hands before you prepare food. Wash your hands before you eat anything. When you are at the hospital, don’t touch anything. If you do, wash your hands. If you use a toilet at the hospital, make sure you wash your hands really well and use clean tissue paper to turn the tap off and open the door handle. Don’t touch doors if you can help it – use your foot to push them open and then your shoulder to go through them. If you use any public machines, e.g. car park payment machines, clean your hands afterwards with a baby wipe or a hand sanitiser like this one when you reach your car. Make it a habit to wash your hands as soon as you get home from anywhere. That way, any germs you came into contact with while you were out are immediately washed away and not spread around your house. Also ask visitors to your house to wash their hands when they arrive. I actually taped a tiny note to my front door asking visitors to do this and it worked really well.

  2. Avoid touching your face

    Touching your face brings germs from your hands near to your mouth and nose – entry points to your body. Learn to keep your hands away from your face. Don’t wipe your nose with your hand, don’t scratch spots on your face, don’t fuss with your hair. Just leave it. The less you touch your nose and mouth, the less likely you are to spread germs to these vulnerable areas. This gets easier the more you practice it, until it becomes a new habit.

  3. Drink lots of clean, filtered water

    Staying hydrated helps your body get rid of toxins. Keep your body running efficiently by drinking at least 2 litres of water a day. Fill a water bottle first thing in the morning and bring it everywhere with you, from room to room if you are at home, or out and about with you in the car, to the hospital or wherever you are. Drink from it throughout the day. Staying hydrated will also keep you feeling as well as possible, and as energised as possible.

  4. Stay away from anyone who is sick

    Stay away from friends with small children that attend school/creches as these are areas that would be full of unfamiliar-to-you germs, and ask them not to visit you if they are sick. Stay away too from family members (those who do not live with you) if they are sick, until they are better. Don’t feel bad about this either – you are going through chemotherapy and your vulnerability to infection is incredibly sensitive at this time – they will understand. This is a time to be selfish and put yourself first. If you can, stay away from public transport, busy public places like swimming pools, gyms, fast food restaurants, concerts, pubs/nightclubs and public toilets. This is not forever, this is just for now, while you get through treatment. If you do have to use any of these facilities, make sure you implement points 1 and 2 above as well as you can.

  5. Be kind to yourself

    If your own family get sick while you are going through chemo, try not to panic. Stay indoors and look after yourselves. Order in an online shop. Cook wholesome comfort foods. Order in some super green juices from The Juice Works to give everyone a boost (they even have taste-approved juices for kids). Diffuse the DoTerra On Guard essential oil through your house (you can order some from here) for immune support. Make this all natural cold and flu remedy. Keep a close eye on your temperature and have your hospital’s oncology unwell line phone number handy in case you need to call it. If another family member is really unwell and needs to see a doctor, call your local out-of-hours service provider (you usually get this number on your GP’s voicemail after hours) and have them do a house call (this will avoid any further germ exposure for you in your doctor’s waiting room). Don’t forget to implement all the other points above as well and try to think positive.

I hope these points might help you with some ideas of how to stay healthy while you get through your chemotherapy. Please note, I am not a doctor and these are only my personal suggestions of things that I did during my own chemotherapy experience.

If you have any more tips that you would add to this list, please do leave them in the comments below for other readers.

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