Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

Minimise your infection risk

Minimise your infection risk image

There are several simple precautions you can take to help minimise your infection risk during periods of neutropenia following chemotherapy, which focus on limiting your exposure to bacteria and fungi1

When the number of neutrophils and other white blood cells decrease following chemotherapy the risk of infection rises

Female hygiene

Women should use sanitary towels instead of tampons2

Oral hygiene

Use a soft toothbrush for cleaning your teeth and gums1

Daily bathing

Shower or bathe daily and keep skin moisturised1,2


Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly1,2

Avoid sharing

Do not share food, drink, or utensils with other people2

No crowded spaces

Avoid crowded spaces and contact with those who are ill1,2

Safe food preparation

Wash fruit and vegetables2

Cook meat or poultry products thoroughly to kill germs2


Use gloves for any gardening activities2,3

Contact with animals

Avoid contact with pet faeces and urine 

Use protective gloves and wash your hands thoroughly when you finish cleaning up after your pet2,3

Protect yourself

Protect hands and feet from cuts or burns3,4

Sunscreen can help prevent infections4,5

Recognising the signs and symptoms of infection

Neutropenia often masks the signs and symptoms of infection,6 so be on the lookout for the following indicators:

  • Changes in mental state e.g. confusion1
  • Blocked nose1
  • Cough, or change in nature of existing cough1
  • A sore throat, or development of a new mouth sore1
  • Shortness of breath1
  • Changes in skin1
  • Discomfort during urination, or increased frequency of urination1
  • Unusual vaginal discharge or vaginal irritation1
  • Stiff neck1
  • Chills and sweats1
  • Any new pain, including abdominal and/or rectal pain1
  • Diarrhoea and/or vomiting1
  • Irritation, tenderness, or swelling in any area, including surgical wounds and ports1
If you have developed any of these symptoms, please contact your doctor immediately.
A fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, for longer than 60 minutes, or if you have a temperature of 101°F (38.4°C) at any time1.
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  1. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Neutropenia and risk for infection. Accessed November 2015.
  2. Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals. Coping with the side effects of chemotherapy. Accessed March 2016.
  3. Lymphoma Association. Neutropenia – a guide for people with lymphoma. Accessed March 2016.
  4. Macmillan. Possible side effects of chemotherapy. Accessed March 2016.
  5. McGuffie MJ, et al. Nanomedicine. 2016;12:33-4.
  6. Crawford J, et al. Cancer. 2004;100:228-37.