Chemotherapy Safety in the Home

A person who handles Chemotherapy drugs or comes into contact with them is at risk of exposure to a variety of hazards. Drugs like these can damage or kill cancer cells in patients, but the drugs can also be a concern for others who might be exposed to them. 

Your body usually breaks down and eliminates most chemotherapy drugs within 48 to 72 hours. During this time, drug waste leaves your body through the fluids in your body.

Second hand chemotherapy exposure can happen through the following

  • Urine and stool
  • Tears 
  • Sweat 
  • Vomit 
  • Blood 
  • Semen and the vagina 

Symptoms of acute exposure to body fluids or chemotherapy drugs include rashnausea, vomiting, dizziness, abdominal pain, headache, nasal sores, and allergic reactions. When exposed for a longer period of time, birth defects, reproductive losses, and cancer are associated.

In order to keep your pets and loved ones safe during and after chemotherapy, you should be aware of certain safety precautions. It is possible to be exposed to these chemotherapy drugs while cleaning the bathroom, handling body waste, or handling soiled laundry. Any exposure can be absorbed through the skin.

Chemotherapy precautions to keep your family 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 going to the toilet. Dry your hands with paper towels and throw them away.
  • To use the toilet, both men and women should sit on it. This cuts down on splashing.
  • Dispose of adult diapers, underwear, and sanitary pads in 2 plastic bags with your normal rubbish.
  • 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 linens that have been contaminated with vomit or other body fluids. Seal the gloves in a plastic bag and discard.
  • Use the longest cycle on the washing machine and line dry the items.
  • If you can't wash clothes right away, put clothes into a sealed plastic bag


For more safety tips read - 'Food Safety tips'