How to Prevent Post-transplant Infections

There are 40,000 organ transplants performed annually worldwide. Renal transplants are the most common. Over the last several decades, the field of organ transplantation has advanced significantly, only to be continually challenged by the risks for infection in the recipients.

Many variables can potentially contribute to the development of infections. The transplant recipient’s health, nutrition and immunodeficiency, immunosuppressive drugs, healthcare institutions, donor-derived infections, and the presence of co-modulating viruses are some of the important factors.

After transplant, the immune system is weak and you are at risk for infection. Unfortunately the medicines used to prevent post transplant rejection make the patient more susceptible to infections. Infections of chest and urinary tract are the common infections one may suffer from.

Infection risk is highest in the first three to six months post transplant period. Moreover, infections can occur even if white cell counts are normal. Hence, it is very important to take steps to minimize infection at home.

Signs and Symptoms of an Infection:

1. Temperature above 101 degree F or 38 degree C

2. Shaking chills

3. Drainage from incision line. Straw-colored, clear fluid may be normal and can persist for few weeks; any pus-colored drainage or redness needs attention

4. Burning during urination or a change in colour or odour of urine

5. A cough that will not go away

6. Shortness of breath

7. A severe headache or drowsiness

Infection in Transplant Patients

Do’s to Prevent Infection:

1. Hand washing is the most effective method to prevent infections. Conscientious hand hygiene using an alcohol-based hand get or soap and water is especially recommended

2. Keep your house clean and free of excess dust

3. Avoid going to crowded areas or a construction site. If it is unavoidable, wear a mask

4. Minimize visitors in the initial three months

5. Regular exercise in the form of waling is good.

6. Drink plenty of water or other fluids

7. Good nutrition is essential to help resist infections, so, eat a balanced diet

8. Brush your teeth and gums thoroughly after each meal using a soft toothbrush. If gums are sore, use foam sticks. If gums are swollen, contact your doctor

9. Dentures should be cleaned daily and their fitting should be good. Visit your dentist at least twice a year

10. Keep a record of your daily temperature. If temperature is more than 100 degree Fahrenheit, contact your doctor

11. Men should check Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) every year

12. Women should perform self breast examinations monthly and have a PAP smear and mammogram done every year

13. Protect your skin from injuries and cuts

14. Use latex condoms during sexual contact to reduce the risk for exposure to sexually transmitted diseases

15. Before taking any new medicine, consult your doctor, as it may have reaction with your ongoing medicines

16. When in doubt, never be afraid of asking your doctor

Don’ts to Prevent Infection:

1. Do not go to crowded areas in the first three months

2. Do not use hot tubs, steam bath or saunas, as germs tend to multiply in this environment

3. Stay out of the sun. If required, use sunscreen lotion with a SPF rating of 15 or above

4. Do not eats raw or under cooked meat, egg, seafood or vegetables. Pasteurised products are okay

5. Do not come in direct contact with someone who is actively coughing or sneezing

6. Do not smoke and avoid second hand smoking

7. Decrease close exposure to pets and avoid adding a new pet, especially a bird

8. Avoid contact with infants

Also Read: Warning Signs of Heart Attack and Stroke
Also Read: Kidney Transplantation living with One Kidney

How to Prevent Post-transplant Infections:

A transplant patient is three times more likely than other people to get skin cancer. Therefore, the patient should be mindful of avoiding the sun at all times, especially when traveling:

1. Protect your skin with suitable protective clothing

2. Wear a wide-brimmed hat

3. Wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV radiation

4. Avoid the midday sun – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m

5. Examine your skin regularly for any unusual blemish/moles, especially one that changes in size, shape or color

6. If travelling out of station, locate the nearest transplant center at your destination, before you travel.

7. Take along enough medications for the entire trip (include extra doses just in case) and keep them with you and not inside your baggage.

SOURCE: B-Positive Health Magazine

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