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Neutropenic Precautions

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 6, 2022.

What are neutropenic precautions?

Neutropenic precautions are steps you can take to prevent infections if you have moderate to severe neutropenia. Neutropenia is a condition that causes you to have low neutrophils in your blood. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that help your body fight infection and bacteria. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on neutropenia.

What precautions can I take to prevent infections?

Stay away from crowds and people who are sick. This will decrease your risk of infections that can be passed to you from others. The following are other ways to prevent infections:

  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diaper, sneeze, or cough. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food. Wash your hands after you visit public places. Dry your hands completely.
  • Bathe daily. This lowers the amount of germs on your skin. Germs can cause infections. If you shave, use an electric razor to prevent cuts in the skin where germs can get in.
  • Brush your teeth 2 times each day. Brush gently with a soft toothbrush. The mouth is a common place for infections. Ask your healthcare provider if it is okay for you to gently floss daily.
  • Prevent constipation. Ask your healthcare provider if you should take a stool softener. Ask him how much liquid to drink and which liquids are best for you. Do not use suppositories or enemas. Constipation, suppositories, and enemas can cause a tear in your rectum. This allows germs to get in and can increase your risk for infection.
  • Do not use tampons or douches. These may cause tears in your vagina that germs can get into.
  • Do not share personal items with anyone. Some examples are drinking glasses, eating utensils, and bath towels.
  • Avoid fresh flowers, live plants, and standing water. They may have germs growing from the soil or water.
  • Have someone clean up after your pet. Contact with your pet's feces, urine, and saliva may give you an infection. Ask someone to clean your birdcages, or fish or turtle tanks for you. Ask someone to clean your cat box daily.

What precautions do I need to take with my food?

Eat foods that are high in calories, protein, and vitamins to help you heal. Eat only foods that are pasteurized. You can get infections from food or drinks while your neutrophils are low. Follow these and any other precautions from your healthcare provider:

  • Wash your hands, kitchen surfaces, and food. Germs can be on your hands, counter tops, utensils, and food. Wash your hands before and after you handle food. Wash countertops and utensils with hot soapy water between food items, especially raw meats, fish, and poultry. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly before you eat or cook them. Clean the tops of cans before you open them.
  • Keep cooked and raw foods separate in your grocery cart, grocery bags, and refrigerator. This prevents cross contamination. Cross contamination is when germs from one food spread to another food. This happens when juices from raw meat, fish, and eggs get on cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Use a separate cutting board for raw foods. Never put cooked food on an unwashed plate that had raw meat, seafood, or eggs on it.
  • Cook your food all the way through. Germs are destroyed when you cook your food to safe temperatures. Use a food thermometer to make sure your food is cooked to the correct temperature. You cannot always tell if your food is safe by looking at it. Cover, stir, and rotate food that you cook in a microwave so that it cooks evenly.
  • Refrigerate food immediately. This will help slow down the growth of germs. Your refrigerator should be at 40°F or below to keep foods safe. Put meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood in the refrigerator or freezer within 2 hours after cooking or buying them. Always thaw food in the refrigerator, cold water, or microwave. Do not thaw food on your countertop.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) for more than 1 hour.
  • You have a fever of 101.0°F (38.3°C) or higher once.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have fever or chills.
  • You have a new cough.
  • You have a sore throat or a new mouth sore.
  • You have redness or swelling any place on your body.
  • You have pain in your abdomen or rectum.
  • You have burning or pain when you urinate.
  • You have diarrhea.
  • You are more tired or forgetful than usual.
  • You are planning to travel.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.