Transplant recipients have lowered or suppressed immune systems, making them more susceptible to infection.
Here are some ways to protect yourself:
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Keep your hands away from your mouth and eyes.
- Stay away from people with colds and other infections.
- Avoid crowded enclosed areas for the first three months post transplant and after any treatment for rejection.
- Ask friends to visit only when they are well.
- Wash your hands after coughing and sneezing. Throw used tissues into the trash immediately.
- Do not eat or drink using the same glass or eating utensils used by anyone else.
- Ask family or friends who live with you to follow these same guidelines when they are sick.
- Avoid gardening or working in soil for six months after your transplant. Wear gloves once you resume gardening activities.
- Avoid handling animal waste and avoid contact with stray animals. Do not clean bird cages, fish or turtle tanks, or litter boxes. Cover your cat litter box.
- Avoid vaccines that consist of live viruses, such as Sabin oral polio, measles, mumps, German measles, yellow fever or smallpox. The live virus can cause infection. If you or any family member intends to receive vaccinations, notify your transplant team.
- Practice thorough oral hygiene every day. The mouth and teeth can be a source of infection. Regular brushing and flossing are essential, as are regular dental checkups.
- Avoid construction sites. Discuss in advance any possible home remodeling or construction projects with your physician or coordinator.
- Wear a mask when you come to the clinic. Park away from active construction sites.
Learn the warning signs of infection and report them to your transplant team immediately:
- Fever over 100 degrees F
- Flu symptoms including chills, aches, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting
- "Wet" productive cough and/or shortness of breath
- Nasal congestion with thick greenish or yellow drainage
- Sore throat
- Pain, burning during urination or feeling constant urge to urinate
- Any wound that is red or swollen with some drainage
- Mouth sores or thrush
- Rashes or skin lesions
Types of infection
Familiarize yourself with some of the different types of infections that can affect transplant patients. Notify your transplant team immediately if you suspect you have an infection.
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infects between 30% and 80% of all people (depending on where they live) at some point in their life. Like many viral infections, this virus is not dangerous to the public but can be serious in transplant recipients due to their weakened immune systems. Symptoms include fatigue, high fever, aching joints, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, visual disturbances and pneumonia.
- Herpes zoster (shingles) is a recurrence of chicken pox appearing as a rash or as small water blisters on the chest, back or hip. Shingles may or may not be painful.
- Candida can cause a variety of infections in transplant recipients. Most commonly it infects the mouth and throat, but also can be found in surgical wounds, eyes, respiratory and urinary tracts or the bloodstream. Candida that infects the mouth and throat is called thrush. Thrush produces white, patchy lesions, pain or tenderness, a white coating on the tongue and difficulty swallowing. You will take mycelex troches to prevent thrush. Candida that infects the vagina is more commonly known as a yeast infection and is identified by an abnormal white or yellow discharge from the vagina.
- Pneumocystis carinii is a fungal infection that causes a form of pneumonia called PCP. PCP can be prevented with Bactrim. If you are allergic to Bactrim, another medication will be substituted. Symptoms of PCP are shortness of breath, dry cough and fever.
Different types of bacteria can affect nearly any area of the body. Common bacterial infections include urinary tract infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, sinusitis, wound infections and blood infections. As with any potential infection, it is important you contact your transplant team immediately if you believe you have an infection.