Chemotherapy is one of the most commonly used treatments for cancer. Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment, which uses drugs that inhibit the cancer cells from dividing and growing and spreading the disease further. Chemotherapy kills the dividing cancer cells with a wide variety. Chemotherapy can help prevent cancer from progressing and helps bring about remission by killing the cancer cells. However, as effective as chemotherapy is, there are many side effects of this cancer treatment. There are some types of chemotherapy medications that also cause your immune system to become weak, leaving you susceptible to many types of infections. Today we look at some tips on how you can boost your immune system during chemo.
5 Tips To Boost Your Immune System During Chemo
Taking Protective Drugs During Chemo
Before beginning chemo, you can always ask your doctor if you need to take any protective drugs that will help boost your immune system or drugs for preventing infections when undergoing chemotherapy.
If your doctor knows that you are at high risk for infection, then they will probably prescribe growth factors known as colony-stimulating factors (CSFs). These treatments are administered either as an injection or as a skin patch. They help boost the growth of blood cells, thus lowering your risk of infection. However, there are many serious side effects associated with CSF drugs, though most are temporary.
If you already have a weakened immune system, then your doctor may recommend you to take prophylactic antibiotics, which include antiviral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial medications during chemo. However, discuss all the potential benefits and side effects of these medications with your doctor before you begin to take them.
Don’t Skip the Flu Shot During Chemo
You may not consider the flu shot to be of great importance, but the fact is that the annual flu shot helps reduce your risk of contracting the flu, which can be severe if your immune system is weakened by chemotherapy. While battling cancer, if you contract the flu, it can potentially become a life-threatening illness due to the lowered immune system during chemo.
As per the recommendations of the American Cancer Society, the flu shot can also be administered two weeks before chemotherapy or even between your chemo cycles to boost your immune system during chemo. People who have cancer need to avoid taking the flu vaccine through a nasal mist.
There are also some other vaccines that are considered to be unsafe for people who have a weakened immune system, so it is better to talk to your doctor and discuss which vaccines you have already been given and which ones need to be given before you begin the chemo cycles.
Nutrition Is Very Important During Chemo
A healthy diet is important even if you are not undergoing chemotherapy. If you continue having poor nutrition, then it is going to weaken your immune system further when undergoing chemo. This will increase your chances of getting sick. This is why it is very important that you maintain a healthy and nutritious diet that has sufficient calories and all the nutrients that your body needs during this critical phase.
Sometimes it can be tricky to eat healthily or to even eat at all because cancer or cancer treatments sometimes affect the digestive system or lower your appetite. In some cases, you end up losing your appetite altogether and don’t feel like eating anything when undergoing cancer treatment.
Your doctor will probably encourage you to meet a nutritionist or a dietitian to help you develop a healthy eating plan based on your preferences and dislikes. Depending on your health, at times doctors may also recommend tube feedings, dietary supplements, or even intravenous feedings to ensure that you are getting the required nutrition. Appropriate nutrition is important to boost your immune system during chemo.
Keep in mind that contaminated foods and beverages are also one way of contracting an infection during chemo. This is why you must be careful about what you eat. For example, wash all raw fruits and vegetables properly and thoroughly before eating them. Also cook all animal products thoroughly, including eggs, dairy products, and meat.
Good Hand Hygiene; A Must During Chemo
It is necessary that you wash your hands regularly and properly. Good hand hygiene is very important when your immune system is compromised during cancer treatment. Washing your hands regularly with soap and lukewarm water will lower your chances of falling sick. Washing your hands regularly helps a lot in boosting your immune system during chemo. You should ideally:
- Wash your hands before eating, before touching your face, and before blowing your nose.
- Wash your hands after being out in public places or around people who are unwell.
- Wash your hands after using the washroom, after handling animal products or waste, and after touching garbage.
If there is no soap and water available to wash your hands, then in those situations you can use any type of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Keep showering and bathing on a regular basis and, goes without saying, brush your teeth also every day. Many days you may wake up and feel like staying in bed the entire day, but make the effort to brush your teeth as the last thing you want is to develop some dental problem at this time.
Avoid Contact with People Who Are Unwell
When you are suffering from cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, you are likely to have a weakened and compromised immune system. This is why you need to avoid being around people who are sick. Try to avoid people who are suffering from the flu, having a fever, or are having an infection. If someone at your own home is sick, then carry out the following steps to keep yourself safe:
- Avoid being in the same room as the sick ones as much as possible.
- Avoid sharing any personal items with sick people, even if it is a towel or pillows.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water.
- Wash any objects and surfaces that the infected person might have touched
Also, avoid mingling in large crowds as you are more likely to catch a viral or another type of infections when undergoing chemo.
Chemotherapy treatment is known to affect your immune system and also reduce the body’s ability to fight against infections. This is why it is so important that you take all the required steps to keep yourself safe from infections. You can always discuss with your doctor about how you can protect yourself from infections while undergoing chemotherapy.
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