As winter hits home and the crowds gather, those with compromised immune systems may fear travelling by public transport or joining in with the festivities. How can we improve our chances of staying healthy through the winter?
Here are some top tips for blood cancer patients:
1. Keep moving
Staying in shape with exercise can prevent your general health from deteriorating. It will also help you enjoy general activities, as it can reduce fatigue, and prepare you for treatment.
You can find out more about the benefits of exercise when you click here.
2. Stay up-to-date with vaccinations
Blood cancer patients are immune compromised and less able to fight off infection. As a result, vaccinations are well worth having. Speak to your doctor about get vaccinations such as the flu jab, and ask close friends and family if they’ll have the jab too.
You can find out more about the flu vaccine in our blog by clicking here.
3. Employ strategies to avoid catching infections
Start with frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitiser or antibacterial wipes. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Be careful when opening and closing doors, flushing loos, etc. by using a tissue. Be cautious around possible sources of infection.
4. Stay warm
Make sure you dress for winter! Wrap up warm when out and about if you’re taking part in the festivities. Wear thick socks to bed too, and keep a water bottle on hand at home.
However, if you’re symptomatic and suffering from night sweats, wear breathable, cotton clothing to bed that will keep you warm when you need it, but also absorb any moisture so you can easily change clothes if needs be.
5. Eat well
If you’re neutropenic, make sure you take care with how your food is prepared and what you eat. You can find more advice by clicking here.
Otherwise, make sure to eat a balanced diet and try to follow a few general healthy-eating principles. You can read more information on a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight when you click here.
6. Stay hydrated
It’s important that you drink plenty of fluids to remain hydrated. Being dehydrated means your body has a harder time repairing itself and fighting infection.
7. Get plenty of rest and sleep
The benefits of sleep are endless, so make sure you’re getting enough! It’s recommended that adults have seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
If you’re struggling to sleep, speak to your doctor.
8. Avoid stress
Stress can compromise your immune system, as it heightens the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your blood. Whilst a little bit of cortisol can be beneficial in helping you to deal with stressful situations, too much over a long period of time can lower your immune system and also increase inflammation.
Try practising mindfulness to reduce your levels of stress, or consider seeing a therapist. You can find out more about mindfulness techniques for blood cancer patients here, and information on finding a therapist here.
9. Keep on top of your dental work
Poor dental health can pull you down and is an avenue for persistent, opportune infection. Make sure you report any issues to your dentist.
10. Symptoms? See your GP
If you come down with an infection or you’re experiencing symptoms of any kind, speak to your GP sooner rather than later.
11. Moderate your festive alcohol consumption
Whilst you might be tempted to knock back a few mulled wines now the nights are getting darker, remember alcohol can make you dehydrated (see tip #6) and can also interfere with some medicines, such as antibiotics.
So, try not to overdo it, and make sure you speak to your GP for advice on alcohol consumption.
12. Review your medications
As Christmas approaches, take stock of your medication and make sure you have enough to last the festive period.
13. Make sure you’re not vitamin deficient
As UV levels dip in the Northern hemisphere, your vitamin levels may require balancing. Investigate Vitamin B and D tests to check you’re not deficient.