Chemotherapy drugs are hazardous to people who handle them or come into contact with them. For patients, this means the drugs are strong enough to damage or kill cancer cells, but this also means the drugs can be a concern for others who might be exposed to them.
It generally takes about 48 to 72 hours for your body to break down and get rid of most chemo drugs. During this time the drug waste will leave your body through body fluids.
- Urine and stool
- Semen and the vagina
Acute exposure to body fluids or the chemotherapy drug itself can cause rash, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, abdominal pain, headache, nasal sores and allergic reactions. Exposure over a longer period of time is associated with birth defects, reproductive losses and cancer later in life.
This is why it is important to know certain safety precautions during and after chemo to help keep your pets and loved ones safe. Cleaning the bathroom or handling body wastes or soiled laundry can expose you to these chemotherapy drugs. Any exposure can be absorbed through the skin.
Follow these tips to keep your family extra safe:
- Flush the toilet twice and put the lid down before flushing to avoid splashing.
- If possible, you may want to use a separate toilet during this time. If this is not possible, wear gloves to clean the toilet seat after each use.
- Always wash your hands after using the toilet. Dry your hands with paper towels and throw them away.
- Both men and women should sit on the toilet to use it. This cuts down on splashing.
- If using throw-away adult diapers, underwear, or sanitary pads, seal them in 2 plastic bags and throw them away with your regular trash.
- If you vomit into the toilet, clean off all splashes and flush twice.
- If you vomit into a bucket, carefully empty it into the toilet and flush twice.
- Wash out the bucket with hot, soapy water and rinse it. Dry the bucket with paper towels and throw them away.
- Throw the bucket away after treatment finishes.
- Caregivers should wear 2 pairs of throw-away gloves if they need to touch any of your body fluids.
- They should always wash their hands with warm water and soap afterwards, even if they had gloves on.
- If a caregiver does come in contact with any of your body fluids, they should wash the area very well with warm water and soap. This does not normally cause any harm but at your next visit, let your doctor know this happened. This is just for extra safety.
- Wash clothing or other items soiled with body fluids separately.
- Wear disposable gloves when handling clothing or bed sheets with vomit or other body fluids. Seal the gloves in a plastic bag and discard after use.
- Use the longest washing machine cycle and line dry the items.
- If you can't wash clothes straight away, put clothes in a sealed plastic bag.
For more safety tips read - 'Food Safety tips'