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Social life, alcohol and other activities during chemotherapy

With a bit of planning and a few precautions, your social life can still go ahead. 

You might not always be able to do the things you take for granted. But you don't need to stop your social life completely. You may just find you need to plan ahead a bit more.

These tips can help:

  • Get some rest during the day if you're going out at night – you'll have more energy for the evening.
  • You can take some anti sickness tablets before you go out for a meal if you think you’ll need them.
  • Drinking a little alcohol probably won't affect most types of chemotherapy – but check with your doctor first.
  • To avoid getting an infection, always eat freshly cooked food - avoid raw meat, fish, eggs, soft cheese and take away foods.
  • If you have an important social event coming up, ask your doctor whether they can arrange your chemo so that you’re between treatments that week.

Alcohol and chemotherapy

Whether you drink alcohol during your course of chemotherapy will partly depend on the particular drugs you are having. With some chemotherapy drugs it is very important not to drink alcohol as they interact. Your doctors and nurses giving the treatment will be able to give you specific advice about whether drinking alcohol is safe with your chemotherapy drugs.

Some chemotherapy drugs can make you feel sick or you may lose your appetite. If you are able to drink, then small amounts of alcohol may help to boost your appetite. But excessive drinking would not be a good idea, whatever type of chemotherapy you are on.

Some chemotherapy drugs cause a change in taste. So food and drink may not taste as they did before. This can mean that people who used to enjoy alcohol do not enjoy having a drink while on treatment anyway. This will go back to normal once the treatment has finished.

Some people also develop a sore mouth while having chemotherapy and you may find that alcohol stings, particularly spirits.

Generally, having the odd glass of wine or beer is not going to affect you while on chemotherapy. Just check with your doctor first to make sure it is all right.

Infections and vaccines

Avoid family or friends who might have infections such as chicken pox. Let your doctor know if you think you’ve been in contact with someone who could have chicken pox. 

You should not have any live vaccines while you’re having chemotherapy. It’s safe for you to be around other people who've had live vaccines as injections.

But there can be problems with live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines). This includes the rotavirus vaccine that babies have. You can be infected by the virus for 2 weeks after a baby has had the vaccine. So during this time, be very careful about handwashing and avoid changing nappies if at all possible. Your doctor or chemo nurse can talk to you about this.

Your doctor might advise you and your family to have the seasonal flu vaccine. It is important to have the flu jab before the virus starts to circulate in the population. This is most likely to happen during the winter months.

Talk to your specialist about having the flu jab if you’re in the middle of chemotherapy treatment. Your immune system is weaker, so the vaccine might not work quite so well. Your specialist will tell you the best time to have a flu jab.

Holidays

Many people like to plan a holiday for the end of their treatment. It’s something to mark the end of your chemo and something to look forward to. Hopefully it will allow you to rest and begin to get back to normal.

You might enjoy your trip more if you wait for a few weeks after your last treatment. Some people find the end of their treatment quite difficult. Although you'll be pleased the treatment is at an end, it can feel quite strange to start focusing on other things again.

Waiting a few weeks might help you adjust back to normal home life. You can then go off on holiday without worrying about how you will cope when you get home.

There are a few extra things you need to think about when you’re travelling. You'll find some useful information in our section on travelling and cancer.

Information and help