Management of bodily fluids during chemotherapy
Lailaa Cajee offers simple safety measures to be incorporated into your daily life to safeguard those around you when managing bodily fluids during chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is a drug that destroys cancer cells but if it comes into contact with someone who doesn’t have cancer, it can be harmful to their healthy cells.
Chemotherapy leaves the body through fluids, such as urine, stool, vomit, sweat, saliva, semen and vaginal fluids. It’s still present in your system for up to seven days after IV treatment, and if you’re taking oral chemotherapy tablets then its present for the entire duration of that treatment. This means that anything leaving your body can potentially contaminate your surroundings or other individuals.
Try and handle your own bodily fluids wherever possible. If a caregiver/family member needs to assist, then ensure that they are wearing gloves and that they wash their hands with soap immediately after.
Cleaning should always be done using gloves. A bleach-based product is recommended with disposable cloths or items.
Always double bag soiled items or disposables before emptying into the normal waste system.
If bodily fluids come in contact with the skin and it becomes red or irritated, lasting longer than an hour, contact your doctor.
If bodily fluids splash into the eye, remove contact lenses if you’re wearing any. Rinse the eyes with water for at least 15 minutes.
In the bathroom
If you can, use your own bathroom, but if you can’t ensure that you wipe the toilet seat, handle and lid with a sanitising wipe after each use. After using the toilet, close the lid and flush the toilet twice. This ensures that any bodily waste isn’t left behind.
Males should ideally sit when urinating to prevent any splashes. Wash your hands well with soap and water after using the bathroom.
Clothing and linen
If you soil your clothing or linen with stool, urine or vomit, wash them immediately. Don’t mix it with other washing. Wash it on a high temperature with your normal detergent. If you can’t wash it immediately, then put it in a bag and seal it off until such time that you can.
If you vomit
Reserve a plastic bucket or bowl for vomiting purposes if you’re not close to the toilet. Once you’re done, flush it down the toilet immediately. Remember to close the lid and flush the toilet twice to ensure that all the bodily fluids have been removed.
If you don’t have control over your bladder or bowels
Use disposable pads or diapers to absorb the urine or stool. Once they are soiled, change them immediately. Dispose of in a separate packet before throwing into the general waste. You can also place a disposable linen saver under your sheet so that your mattress doesn’t become soiled.
It’s best to avoid sexual activity for seven days after having chemotherapy.
If you do engage in it, then a barrier method of contraception must be used, for example, condoms. This is to avoid transmission of chemotherapy via seminal or vaginal fluids.
If you have an ostomy bag
Wear gloves when changing the ostomy bag or any components and wash hands with soap thereafter. Once done, dispose of in a separate packet before throwing into the general waste.
If you have any concerns or questions, contact your doctor or oncology practice.
MEET THE EXPERT – Laila Cajee
Lailaa Cajee is an experienced oncology pharmacist with a demonstrated history of working in the medical industry, skilled in antineoplastic drugs and aseptic technique processes. She is passionate about education and training and is the co-developer of the first oncology course in SA through the University of Witwatersrand.
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