Infections can sometimes be life threatening. Contact your doctor urgently if you've had cancer treatment recently and think you might have an infection.
Signs and symptoms
You could have one or more of the following symptoms if you are getting an infection:
- a temperature of more than 38C
- your skin feels hot to touch
- feeling cold or shivery
- aching muscles
- feeling tired
- stinging or pain when you pass urine
- feeling confused or dizzy
- sore mouth or pain when swallowing
- coughing or shortness of breath
- pain, redness, discharge, swelling or heat at the site of a wound or intravenous line such as a central line or PICC line
- pain anywhere in your body that was not there before your treatment
An increase in your temperature to 38C or higher might be the first clue that you have an infection. You should contact your GP or cancer centre immediately. You might need injections of antibiotics to control the infection.
Some types of painkiller such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are anti pyretics, meaning they bring down temperatures. Taking these may disguise that you have an infection.
What you can do
There are some ways to reduce your risk of getting an infection when your white cell count is low. These include:
- making sure cooked food is properly heated through to kill off bacteria
- washing all fruit and salads well in clean water
- avoiding contact with anyone who has (or may have been) exposed to chicken pox