How to look after someone with childhood cancer
Advice for the family and people around them
- Use an FFP3 mask when entering the hospital or areas where there is a risk of contagion. Risk areas include enclosed public spaces such as the cinema, public transport, restaurants, the swimming pool, etc., and areas where ground works or excavations are taking place.
- Clean the house with diluted bleach (20 ml of bleach per 1 l of water).
- Patients can go to school when authorised by their doctor.
- A high number of visitors at home in the same day.
- Contact with people who have a cold or flu or other viral illnesses.
- Contact with animals (if you have a pet at home, you should ask the doctor about the risks).
- The patient being in the room when vacuum cleaning.
Hygienic food handling
Food can transmit infections when handled or stored incorrectly. To avoid this, make sure to take the following precautions:
- wash your hands with soap and water before preparing or consuming foods,
- cooking utensils and surfaces should be cleaned with soap and water,
- kitchen roll is recommended for drying surfaces and wash kitchen cloths often (if you use them),
- when cooking foods, make sure they are well cooked inside (at 65 ºC minimum),
- foods should be consumed immediately after cooking and stored in the fridge within two hours,
- never defrost foods at room temperature and cooked food should be put in the fridge as soon as possible (within 2 hours),
- foods should be protected from insects, rodents and other animals,
- we recommend keeping high-risk foods (meat, poultry, dairy products, fish, seafood, eggs and mayonnaise) below 5 ºC (in the fridge),
- gooey, mouldy, bruised or damaged fruit should be discarded,
- wash fruit well before peeling and then eat straight away,
- meat should be minced in a clean machine with no remains and cooked immediately or within 2 hours,
- if you eat eggs, the white and the yolk should be well cooked,
- bought eggs must have a clean shell and must never be washed,
- it is important to follow storage, handling and expiry instructions of packaged foods once opened,
- try to put any tinned foods that you have opened in a different container to avoid oxidation of the tin,
- patients should not knead bread containing yeast,
- to avoid anisakis parasites, fish should be frozen before being eaten.
Some foods may be carriers for bacteria or fungi, so try to avoid them temporarily.
In the first few days, we do not recommend eating raw salads and vegetables. After an initial visit to the doctor, if the doctor allows it, they will recommend the measures to be taken.
General dietary advice
- It is important to drink enough fluids, especially water.
- If the patient is taking corticosteroids, they should not eat too much salt (to avoid swelling) and avoid eating too much sugar.
Special advice in the event of diarrhoea
- Avoid too much fibre (legumes, cereals and fruit).
- Stay away from foots containing too much fat (sausages and nuts).
- Drink skimmed dairy products.
- The consumption of lactose is not recommended.
- If advised by your doctor, intake of gluten may also be restricted.
Diet for immunosuppressed patients
Skin care and hygiene
- Protect the patient from the sun's rays with factor 50 sun cream, sun glasses, a hat, parasol or beach umbrella.
- Use moisturiser (making sure to pay attention to the manufacturer's expiry information once opened).
- Shower using neutral soap.
- Do not use a sponge.
- In case of GVHD (graft-versus-host disease) of the skin, the necessary care should be discussed with the doctor.
- Brush teeth with a soft brush (according to platelet count).
- After each meal, use an alcohol-free antiseptic fluoride mouthwash.
- Avoid using tampons.
- You will need to consult your doctor regarding any tattoos, piercings, hair removal, shaving and sexual relations.
- Exercise should be undertaken according to what is possible for the patient.
- Physical exercise should be moderate: walking, stretching and passive exercises, exercise bike and exercises that contribute to flexibility.
Warning signs that the patient should go to the hospital
- Fever over 38 °C.
- Diarrhoea and/or vomiting.
- Haematomas and bleeding.
- Headache or blurry vision.
- Joint pain.
- Breathing difficulty.
- Espai de colors Vall d’Hebron. Available at: https://espaidecolorsvhebron.wordpress.com
- Children with cancer. Spanish federation of parents. Available at: www.cancerinfantil.org
- Association of parents of children with cancer. Available at: www.asion.org
- Association of family and friends of children with cancer. Available at: www.afanoc.org
- Enriqueta Villavecchia Children’s Oncology Foundation. Available at: www.fevillavecchia.es
Related pathology: paediatric sarcomas, extraocular tumours of childhood, intraocular tumours of childhood, orbital tumours, neuroblastomas, blood stem cell transplant.
- Paediatric oncology and haematology
- Paediatric oncology day hospital
- Paediatric A&E