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Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment. It works by using strong drugs to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells, which grow and divide more quickly than many healthy cell types.

However, it’s still possible for chemotherapy to target healthy cells that also divide quickly. Some examples include cells in the digestive tract, immune system, and hair follicles.

When this happens, it can lead to side effects like lowered immunity, hair loss, and nausea or vomiting. There are certain precautions that you can take to limit your side effects and help make treatment safer.

We’ll explore nine things to avoid during chemotherapy treatment. Then, we’ll discuss a few things that are important to do during chemotherapy as well as how to find support.

9 things to avoid during chemotherapy treatment

First, let’s explore some things not to do during chemotherapy treatment. Avoiding these things can help to make your treatment safer and more tolerable.

1. Contact with body fluids after treatment

Your body typically breaks down and passes chemotherapy drugs during the 48 to 72 hoursTrusted Source after your treatment. Because of this, it’s possible for these drugs to be present in various body fluids, including urine, stool, and vomit during this time.

Because chemotherapy drugs can affect healthy cells, coming into contact with them in various body fluids can be potentially harmful to yourself or others. That’s why it’s a good idea to avoid contact with body fluids that may contain them.

Here are a few tips for a avoiding contact:

Wash your hands. Thoroughly wash and dry your hands after using the bathroom or after coming into contact with any body fluids that may contain chemotherapy drugs.

Flush twice. Flush the toilet twice after using the bathroom, and make sure that the lid is down to prevent splashing.

Wash soiled fabrics. Promptly wash any clothes or sheets that have had contact with body fluids. Wash them separately from other laundry, and use the warm setting on your washing machine and normal laundry detergent.

Clean after you’ve been sick. If you vomit, clean any containers or soiled areas with warm, soapy water and dry thoroughly.

Your doctor will know which bodily fluids may be affected by chemotherapy drugs. Be sure to ask so that you can take appropriate precautions

2. Overextending yourself

A common side effect of chemotherapy is feeling tired or fatigued. Because of this, it’s important not to overextend yourself so that you don’t become too exhausted.

Some potential ways to do this include:

Resting up. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. It may also be helpful to take a few short naps throughout the day, if necessary.

Asking for help. Reach out to loved ones for assistance with daily activities, such as helping with household chores, running errands, or driving you to medical appointments.

Reducing your hours. If possible, it may be beneficial to reduce your working hours while you’re on chemotherapy.

Arranging childcare if you have children. See if you can arrange for childcare on the day that you receive chemotherapy and possibly for a few days afterward.

3. Infections

Because chemotherapy can weaken the immune system, you’re more susceptible to infections. There are many strategies that you can use to help avoid getting an infection, such as:

Wash your hands. Try to wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. This is particularly important after using the bathroom, after handling raw foods, and before eating.

Carry hand sanitizer. Carry hand sanitizer with you in case you don’t have access to soap and water. Sanitizing wipes can also be used to wipe down public surfaces like door handles and ATM buttons.

Avoid people who are sick. Aim to stay away from people who are currently sick with an infection until they get better.

Get a flu shot (with your doctor’s OK). Receiving a flu shot can help prevent you from contracting the flu. However, ask your doctor first before receiving any vaccines when receiving chemotherapy.

Stay out of crowds. Germs can spread more easily in crowded places, so try to avoid these locations during chemotherapy.

Store food properly. Promptly store any items that need to be refrigerated or frozen, including leftovers. Don’t allow them to sit out at room temperature.

Use care during personal grooming. Cuts and scrapes can allow germs to enter your body. Use care while doing personal care activities like shaving, trimming your nails, or brushing your teeth.

4. Large meals

Chemotherapy can sometimes lead to a loss of appetite. This can happen due to side effects like nausea, mouth sores, or feeling fatigued.

It’s still important to eat, even if you don’t feel like you’re very hungry. Not eating enough can lead to weight loss and can make fatigue worse.

However, try to avoid eating single large meals. Instead, focus on having several small meals throughout the day. It may be helpful to set up a daily meal schedule so you can easily remember what and when to eat.

Having a large meal may also make you feel very full, making nausea worse

5. Raw or undercooked foods

As previously discussed, chemotherapy can weaken your immune system, increasing the risk of infections. Foods that are raw or undercooked can contain germs that can cause food poisoning.

Avoid eating raw or undercooked:





This also includes unpasteurized milk or cheese.

If you need to handle these items, wash your hands thoroughly after doing so. Also be sure to clean any surfaces they may have come into contact with, such as cutting boards or countertops.

To prevent food poisoning, always cook foods to at least the minimum internal temperature, which can vary by food item. You can use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your food.

Harmful germs can also be present on raw fruits and vegetables. Because of this, always rinse them thoroughly before eating. Avoid eating raw produce that can be difficult to wash well, such as:

leafy greens like lettuce or spinach

berries like raspberries and strawberries

alfalfa or bean sprouts

6. Hard, acidic, or spicy foods

Chemotherapy can cause changes in your mouth and throat. When this happens, you can experience things like increased sensitivity and mouth sores.

During this time, it’s important to avoid foods that can further irritate these areas. This typically includes items that are hard, acidic, or spicy, such as:


potato chips

tortilla chips



citrus fruits

tomato sauce





carbonated beverages

7. Frequent or heavy alcohol consumption

Having an occasional beer or glass of wine during chemotherapy is unlikely to have serious effects. However, because some chemotherapy drugs can interact with alcohol, always ask your doctor if it’s OK to have a drink now and then.

Frequent or heavy alcohol consumption during chemotherapy is generally a bad idea. One reason for this is that alcohol can worsen some chemotherapy side effects, such as dehydration, diarrhea, and mouth sores.

Additionally, alcohol and chemotherapy drugs are both processed by the liver. Drinking while on chemotherapy can place additional stress on your liver.


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