After a bone marrow or cord blood transplant, it may take a year or more for your immune system to recover. A weak immune system increases your risk of serious or even life-threatening infection. It's important that you—and others around you—take special care to prevent infections.
Follow the advice of your transplant team. In addition, these tips are aimed at helping to minimize your risk of infection as you move toward a full, healthy recovery:
Often patients need to take anti-infection medications daily for a year or more after transplant. The best thing you can do to prevent infection is to take these medications exactly as your doctor orders. Call your doctor if you are unable to take these medications for any reason.
A simple and effective way to prevent infection is to wash your hands. You and others around you should wash your hands:
- when you come home after going out
- after you use the bathroom, take out the garbage, change a diaper, touch a pet, or blow your nose
- before preparing or eating food
In addition, a daily bath or shower using mild soap can also help prevent infections.
Both how you prepare your food and what you eat play a role in keeping you healthy. Your doctor and transplant center dietician may provide a special diet to follow depending on your situation. You might need more protein or calories, or you might need to avoid certain foods such as fresh produce. Follow that diet and these other tips:
- Don't share cups, glasses, or eating utensils with other people.
- Avoid eating in restaurants until your doctor says it is OK.
- Cook food thoroughly. Leftovers should be stored in small containers and refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking. Reheat leftovers thoroughly.
- Keep food at its proper temperature. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
- Avoid salad bars, buffets, deli counters, and food in bulk bins.
- Follow your doctor’s recommendation on fresh fruits and vegetables.
Taking good care of your teeth and gums can help reduce problems with infection and mouth sores. Follow the specific recommendations of your transplant center. If you have low blood counts, you might need to follow different steps for teeth care. Some tips include:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft toothbrush
- Gently floss every day unless your doctor advises you against flossing
- Use an alcohol-free mouth rinse or fluoride treatment as recommended by your doctor
- Visit your dentist on a regular basis
Learn more about how to prepare for returning home after transplant.