Neutropenia is caused by a decrease in white blood cells. It is an inevitable side-effect of chemotherapy. Generally the white blood cell count spirals after a treatment, then rebounds as the body heals. Neutropenia accompanies the treatment for several cancers, and generally lasts several days to just over a week. Patients that become neutropenic can be put in isolation to avoid contamination and infection from others.
Bridget was hospitalized when her white blood cell counts plunged to the lowest ranges, leaving her potentially vulnerable to viruses and other diseases. She had to spend most of the week in an isolated room. Neutropenia must be taken seriously. Caution is key.
Where diet is concerned there are a few steadfast rules that should be observed:
• Avoid raw and undercooked foods. Food-borne pathogens that a healthy person can ward off are dangerous, possibly even life-threatening, to a neutropenic individual. Caution and care must be taken at all times in the kitchen. Be sure to avoid cross contamination, and make sure foods are cooked to 165 degrees or above prior to serving. This ensures that the food is safe to eat.
• A clean kitchen is a safe kitchen. Use disinfectant wipes, solutions and products wherever possible. An ounce of prevention is better than a week in the hospital! I use disposable wipes and paper towels in volume. Sponges should be avoided at all costs, as they harbor bacteria.
• Wash your hands often. Having clean hands is the best front line defense against spreading germs and bacteria.