9 Tips to Stay Healthy While Taking Medications that can Affect Your Immune System

Hand washing Christin Hume

Sometimes the medications that heal patients also increase their chances of getting sick. Transplant recipients and people with HIV, rheumatoid arthritis or cancer are some of the patients at Amber Specialty Pharmacy who take medications that can weaken their immune system and increase their risk of infection. It’s important for both patients and their caregivers to take precautions that reduce the risk of spreading an infection. Here are nine tips to stay healthy while on immunosuppressant medications.

1. Maintain good hygiene

People who are on immunosuppressant medications should make sure to wash their hands thoroughly and often. Use anti-bacterial soap and warm water, scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds. Wash your hands after using the restroom, feeding your pets or taking out the trash. When preparing food or caring for someone who is sick, be sure to wash your hands before and after. Frequent hand washing can lead to dry skin, so keep moisturizing lotion nearby.

2. Limit contact with sick people

When you are on a medication that weakens the immune system, it’s best to limit contact with people who are ill. This means avoiding places where there are several people and germs as much as possible. Shopping centers and schools are examples of places that often hold lots of people and germs. Caregivers should also stay away from germs because they can carry an infection back to you. Check with your doctor to make sure you are current on all necessary vaccines.

3. Care for open wounds

Clean sores, cuts and other open wounds to reduce the risk of infection, thoroughly washing your hands before and after taking care of the cut. Keep wounds covered with a sanitary bandage and make sure to watch for proper healing. Tell your doctor right away if a wound or cut starts to look infected.

4. Don’t touch your face

Don’t touch your face when you are taking medicine that compromises your immune system. Viruses and bacteria can easily enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth. If you do touch your face, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly beforehand.

5. Practice safe food preparation

To reduce the risk of infection while taking immunosuppressant medications, always wash your hands before and after handling food. Avoid eating raw eggs, unpasteurized milk, raw milk cheeses, raw meat, and raw unwashed fruits and vegetables. Make sure to cook raw meats and other temperature-sensitive foods to the proper temperature. Talk with a registered dietitian for help adjusting your eating habits to your medication therapy. Amber Specialty Pharmacy patients can ask our registered dietitian about their diet and nutrition.

6. Plan ahead for traveling

Plan ahead before traveling while on medications that weaken the immune system. Talk to your doctor about any vaccines that you may need. Be sure to pack face masks, hand sanitizer and enough medicine to last the duration of your trip. Take extra precautions if you will be spending time in close proximity with other people who may be sick, like on an airplane.

7. Take care of yourself

Taking care of your overall well-being is important to maintaining good health. Drink plenty of water every day and eat a balanced, nutritious diet. Get a good night’s sleep by turning off electronic devices and avoiding alcohol before bed. Reduce stress in your life. If you can’t remove the stress completely, find ways to manage it with yoga, journaling or music.

8. Talk to your doctor

If you notice signs of infection, such as a cough or fever, tell your doctor right away. If you see multiple physicians, tell them about all of your medications, even if it doesn’t seem relevant. It’s important that all your healthcare providers are aware of your risk for infections. The doctors may take extra precautions to reduce your risk of getting sick. Your treatment may also need to be adjusted to work with your immunosuppressant medication.

9. Follow medication instructions

It’s critical for people on immunosuppressant medications to follow the prescription instructions. For the best outcomes, you need to take the right dose at the right time and stay on schedule. If patients or caregivers have any questions about a medication or its side effects, clinical experts at Amber Specialty Pharmacy are available 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Meet the Author

Michele Martindale graduated from the University of Nebraska Medical Center with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and has been practicing for over 20 years, with a background primarily in oncology. In her spare time, Michele enjoys reading, traveling, gardening and volunteering with an animal rescue group.

This information is intended for educational purposes only. The material is not a substitute for professional help or medical diagnosis. It is important that you consult a medical professional if this information leads you to believe there is a concern for you or your patient(s). The diagnosis and treatment of all physical and/or psychological disorders requires a trained professional.

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