While you are in the hospital, your transplant team will check your body temperature at least four times a day, because fever is a strong sign of an infection. You may be given blood tests to check for signs of infections. You may also take infection-fighting drugs (antibiotics) even if you have no signs of infection. Drugs used to prevent infections are called infection prophylaxis.
Pneumonia is a serious infection risk in the first 100 days after transplant, so your doctors will watch for problems with your lungs. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria or viruses. Pneumonia is a serious complication and can be life-threatening, but doctors have many drugs to treat it.
- Even one to two years after your transplant, your immune system may not be at full strength. You may still need to take anti-infection drugs. Patients who get graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) may have weak immune systems for even longer.
- Until your donated cells engraft, you will have low counts of all types of blood cells. You will have very few white blood cells to fight infections. This means you can get an infection easily and infections during this time can be serious, even life-threatening. Your transplant team will take steps to protect you from infections. You will be at risk for infection for many months, but the period before engraftment is a time of especially high risk.
In addition, while you are on immunosuppressants (e.g., cyclosporine and tacrolimus), you are at a greater risk for an infection. Even patients who are not taking immunosuppressants are at risk for a year or more until their immune systems have fully recovered.
Act fast to address early warning signs and minimize complications
- Don't ignore or underestimate symptoms. You cannot be too careful.
- Call your medical team as soon as you notice any warning signs.
- Provide as much detail as you can