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Tips for Keeping Safe at Home with Chemotherapy
By Cheryl Coppola RN, MSN, OCN

(Page 2 of 2)

If you or a family member is currently receiving chemotherapy, whether in the clinic or at home, it is strongly recommended that precautions be followed in order to keep household members safe:

  • Patients may use the toilet as usual, but close the lid and flush twice. Be sure to wash hands with soap and water.
  • If a bedpan, commode or urinal is used, the caregiver should wear gloves when emptying it. (Two pairs of latex or nitrile gloves are recommended.) Rinse it well with water and wash with soap and water at least once per day. The same applies to basins used for vomiting.
  • Wash clothing and linen as usual unless itís soiled with chemotherapy or body fluids. Use gloves and immediately put the soiled laundry in the washer separate from other laundry. If you donít have a washer, put laundry in a sealed plastic bag until it can be washed.
  • If chemotherapy is spilled on skin, irritation or rash may occur. Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. If redness lasts more than an hour, call a doctor. You can avoid contact with skin by wearing gloves when handling chemotherapy, equipment or wastes.
  • For spills on the floor or in the home environment (not on your skin), your home health agency will supply you with a chemotherapy spill kit. Follow the instructions on the box exactly.
  • All cartridges, bags, bottles or tubing that contains chemotherapy must be disposed of in the supplied needle box.
    Use gloves when handling all oral chemotherapy doses.
  • Keep all chemotherapy drugs, equipment, wastes, needle boxes, etc. out of reach of children.

Receiving chemotherapy as an outpatient is much more common than in the past and itís much more convenient than getting treatment in a hospital. However, simple precautions need to be taken to make sure everyone at home stays safe.

Cheryl Coppola has been an oncology nurse for nine years. She is certified in oncology nursing and chemotherapy administration. She currently serves as chairperson for the Hazardous Drug Safety Committee at the UConn Health Center in Farmington, Connecticut.

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