Anti-rejection medications decrease the body's ability to fight infection.
What is infection?
An infection occurs when organisms invisible to the naked eye (micro-organisms, also called “germs”) enter your body causing damage to your body’s tissues.
There are THREE types of organism:
- Bacteria – cause bacterial infection
- Virus – cause viral infection
- Fungus– cause fungal infection
As a transplant recipient you will require lifelong treatment with anti-rejection medications that lower your immune system and therefore decrease your body’s natural ability to fight off invading micro-organisms.
What are the signs of infection?
Regardless of which type of organism has caused an infection you may experience some common symptoms:
- decreased, painful or frequent urination
- new onset of aches or pain
- fever, chills
- flu-like symptoms, cough, shortness of breath
- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- decreased blood pressure, racing pulse
- changes in wound appearance: increased redness, foul odor, increased pain and drainage.
Report these symptoms of a possible infection to your transplant team immediately.
How to decrease your risk of infection
Cuts and scrapes: The skin is a major defense against infection. If you have a cut or are injured, keep the area clean and dry. Watch for symptoms of a local infection (tenderness over the area, redness, pus, and pain). Notify your doctor if signs of infection are noted. Persistent sores, blisters, lumps, or growths in armpit, groin, or elsewhere should be examined by your family physician as soon as possible.
Hand washing: Wash your hands frequently using warm water and soap. Ask your healthcare team to demonstrate proper hand washing technique. Hand washing is recommended especially before eating and handling food, before caring for wounds, before and after handling a urinary catheter, after going to the bathroom, changing diapers, playing with pets. Encourage your visitors and family members to practice good hand washing techniques. Avoid putting your fingers or hands near your mouth, eyes or nose especially if you have not washed them.
Contacts: Avoid close contact with people who have obvious illness (cold, flu) especially in the first 6 months after transplantation. Avoid crowds during cold and flu season. Do not share utensils, cups, glasses or items for personal hygiene, like tooth brush or razor.
Pets: Ensure your pets are healthy and have all the required vaccinations. Do not handle animal waste; avoid cleaning bird cages, fish or turtle tanks or changing cat litter.
Gardening: Wear gloves when working in the garden and in soil. Wash your hands frequently.
Swimming: Six months after transplantation and after your incision and wounds have healed you may swim in chlorinated pools, large bodies of water (ocean, sea, large lake). Avoid public hot tubs if possible and take care not to swallow water during swimming.
Sexual activity: Practice safe sex, use condoms.