Washing your hands may be the single most important thing you and others can do to prevent the spread of infections after a bone marrow or cord blood transplant.
- Wash your hands every time you come home after going out.
- Ask everyone who comes into your home to wash their hands as soon as they come in.
- Wash your hands after using the bathroom, touching a pet or blowing your nose. Others in your house should also wash their hands after doing any of these things.
- Wash your hands before eating or preparing food.
- Wash your hands after you touch a telephone, doorknob or other object used by many people.
Taking precautions around visitors
You will also need to be careful about contact with other people. You may need to limit the total number of visitors who come to your home. While your infection risk is very high, it is best if only a few people visit. In addition, instruct your friends and family to stay away if they are sick or have been in contact with anyone else who is sick in the past few days. Children who have been given a live virus vaccine within the last four weeks should also stay away. You might want to put a note on your door as a reminder. Other things to do are:
- Ask visitors to remove their shoes to avoid tracking in dirt.
- Insist that everyone wash their hands as soon as they arrive.
- Keep your distance from others, cut visits short and wash afterward.
- Teach visitors to use the "elbow bump" greeting used in hospitals.
Taking care of your skin
In addition to washing your hands, a daily bath or shower using mild soap can also help prevent infections. If you have a central line or catheter, you will be told how to take care of it and how to watch for any signs of infection around it.
Your skin may look darker, either in patches or all over, for a while after your transplant. This can be caused by chemotherapy or radiation therapy. This change will go away over time. If your skin is dry or sensitive, put on skin lotion after your bath or shower. Your doctor may prescribe special lotion or recommend lotion you can buy over the counter. If you see any signs of a rash or other changes in your skin, tell your doctor about it right away.
Follow guidelines provided by your medical team. Flossing is not recommended until your platelet count is recovering (at least 50,000) to decrease your risk of bleeding and getting an infection. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush your teeth often. If your mouth is dry, it can increase your risk of dental problems. Saline rinses or other non-prescription products, such as Biotene can help relieve dryness. Doctors recommend daily home use of fluoride brush-on gels, or custom fluoride trays. If you notice mouth sores, call your doctor.
For more information on protecting your health, see Getting Better.