8 Tips for Preventing Infections With Neutropenia

  • A Vulnerable Time for Infections
    A Vulnerable Time for Infections
    White blood cells are the body's chief defense against infection. Neutropenia is an abnormal decrease in the number of certain white blood cells called neutrophils. It's a common problem after chemotherapy. With your defenses down, you're more likely to get serious infections. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce this risk.

  • Wash Your Hands
    Wash Your Hands
    When you have neutropenia, good hygiene is crucial. Wash your hands well and often with soap and warm water. This is especially important before eating and after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, touching animals, or taking out the trash.

  • Senior woman in crowd
    Keep Your Distance
    To stave off infections, stay away from people with other infections, the flu, or a fever. Avoid crowded places, such as shopping malls, airports, and auditoriums. Use moist cleaning wipes to clean public surfaces, such as door handles and ATM keypads, before you touch them.

  • senior woman receiving injection
    Ask About Vaccines
    Get a flu shot and any other vaccines your doctor recommends. Just be sure to talk with your doctor first. Some vaccines contain live virus and aren't recommended for people with neutropenia. Other vaccinations may need to be timed around chemotherapy cycles.

  • Choose Safe Foods
    Choose Safe Foods
    To avoid foodborne infections, be extra careful about what you eat and drink. Steer clear of raw milk or eggs, undercooked meat, cold smoked fish, unheated deli meats, uncooked fruits or veggies, and foods containing mold (such as brie or blue cheese). Around the kitchen keep food prep surfaces and cooking utensils clean. Another tip: get rid of all of your old sponges and start fresh!

  • Wound care
    Protect Your Skin
    Germs can gain access to your body through breaks in your skin. Moisturize after your daily bath or shower to keep your skin from becoming dry and cracked. If you get a cut or scrape, wash the area immediately and cover it with a clean, dry bandage.

  • Brush Your Teeth
    Brush Your Teeth
    To fend off oral infections, clean your teeth by brushing twice daily with a soft-bristled brush. Ask your doctor whether it's OK to floss gently as well. In some cases, your doctor may recommend using a special mouthwash to prevent mouth sores.

  • Portrait of beautiful Golden Retriever
    Use Care With Pets
    Guard against germs that can be transmitted via animal saliva or pet waste. Have someone else do chores such as picking up dog waste and cleaning birdcages or fish tanks. Keep cat litter boxes well away from food areas, and have a helper clean them out every day.

  • Take Medication
    Take Medication
    At times, your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce your risk of getting an infection. Drugs for treating neutropenia—such as filgrastim (Neupogen), pegfilgrastim (Neulasta), and sargramostim (Leukine)—may make the condition less severe or shorter-lasting. Antibiotics taken before you have any signs of infection may help keep you well.

8 Tips for Preventing Infections With Neutropenia

About The Author

  1. American Dental Association. Oral Health During Cancer Treatment. The Journal of the American Dental Association. 2011;142(7):877. 
  2. Infections in People with Cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/physicalsideeffects/infectionsinpeoplewithc...
  3. What You Need to Know: Neutropenia and Risk for Infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/preventinfections/pdf/neutropenia.pdf

Was this helpful?
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Aug 1
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.