Infections can sometimes be life threatening. A fever may be the first or only sign of infection. But some infections may not present with fever and it could be another symptom.
Contact your 24 hour advice line immediately if you've had cancer treatment recently and think you might have an infection.
Even if it turns out that you don’t have an infection, it’s better to find out for sure than wait for things to get more serious.
Signs and symptoms
You could have one or more of the following symptoms if you're getting an infection:
- a temperature of above 37.5C or below 36C
- your skin feels hot to touch
- feeling cold or shivery
- aching muscles
- feeling tired
- stinging or pain when you pass urine
- being sick (vomiting)
- 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 37.5C or higher might be the first clue that you have an infection. Call your 24 hour advice line immediately you might need injections of antibiotics to control the infection.
Medicines that mask or bring down a temperature
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. Taking steroids can also hide the signs of 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:
- taking a bath or shower daily
- washing your hands – particularly before eating, after using the toilet, if you sneeze or cough
- brushing your teeth and using mouth wash
- making sure cooked food is properly heated through to kill off bacteria
- not sharing things like drinking cups and cutlery
- washing all fruit and salads well in clean water
- avoiding contact with anyone who has (or may have been) exposed to chicken pox
- avoiding contact with anyone who has a cold or feels unwell
- avoiding crowds if you can - go to places at less busy times
- wearing disposable gloves to pick up pet poo – preferably ask someone else do it
- wearing gloves when gardening