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Dealing with Chemotherapy

Home remedies to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy

If you’re about to start your cancer treatment, find out what steps you can take to feel better if you end up having some of these side effects.

Fatigue: This is common during chemotherapy. Some people feel just a little low in energy, while others feel wiped out.
Aside from taking medicines, you can practice these habits to fight fatigue: Don’t try to do everything at once or by yourself. If your family or friends ask what they can do for you, get their help with grocery shopping, cooking, or other chores.

Adjust your work schedule if you need to.

Eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.

Exercise, even if it’s just a little bit every day.

Drink plenty of water.

Take short naps if you need to, but not too close to bedtime.

Mouth and Throat Sores: Painful sores can make it hard to eat, and they can get infected.

Ask your doctor about pain medicines and ointments. If you start having a dry mouth, he/she might recommend treatments to help you make more saliva. Other tips:

Visit your dentist 2 weeks before you start chemo to get any dental work done.

Brush your teeth and tongue after every meal and before bed with a soft toothbrush or cotton swabs.

Suck on ice chips right before or during a session.

Nausea and Vomiting: These can happen before, during, or after treatment.

Visit your dentist 2 weeks before you start chemo to get any dental work done.

Eat several small meals throughout the day rather than three big ones.

Drink liquids an hour before you eat rather than during the meal.

Sip clear liquids all day long.

Plan your eating around your chemo. For some people, a snack right before a session helps keep nausea away. Others do better on an empty stomach.

Hair Loss: Chemotherapy can make you lose hair not just on top of your head but in other places, like your eyebrows and eyelashes.

A tight-fitting cap with a cool gel, called a cooling cap, can reduce hair loss for some people. It makes the blood vessels in your scalp smaller so less of the chemo medicine reaches your hair follicles.

You also can handle hair loss with a few other simple habits:

Treat your hair and your scalp gently. That means mild shampoos, soft brushes, and no electric rollers, curling irons, dyes, or perms.

Use moisturizing shampoo, conditioner, and cream on your hair before it falls out and later on your scalp. This will help with dryness and itching.

Explore wigs, scarves, turbans, or hats to mask your hair loss. You might even want to shave your head before you start treatment.

Anemia: You might get this blood condition during chemo, because some drugs can kill cells that form red blood cells in the bone marrow. It can also be a major cause of fatigue during treatment.

Your doctor might prescribe iron supplements, vitamin B12, or folic acid supplements. He might tell you to try a few treatments at once. If your anemia is severe, you might need a blood transfusion. In some cases, your doctor might prescribe drugs that prompt your body to make more red blood cells.

Foods rich in iron, such as spinach, red meat, and beans, might help boost your energy, too.

Bleeding, Bruising, and Infection: Chemotherapy kills white blood cells, which fight germs, and platelets, which help your blood clot. As a result, you have a higher risk of infections, bleeding, and bruising (even if you haven’t bumped yourself).

To prevent bleeding and bruising:

Use an electric shaver instead of a razor.

If you need to blow your nose, do it gently.

Don’t play rough sports.

Don’t use dental floss or toothpicks, which can make your gums bleed.

To avoid infections:

Wash your hands often.

Avoid people who are sick or who have just had vaccines for chickenpox, polio, or measles.

Don’t get any vaccines before talking with your doctor first.

Be careful around pets and other animals.

For constipation, try high-fiber foods, exercise, and drinking lots of fluid. For diarrhea, low-fiber foods like white rice, oatmeal, and skinless chicken may help.

Some people getting chemo have trouble remembering things and concentrating. It’s called “chemo brain” or “chemo fog.” To keep yourself on track, try a few of these habits:

Stick to a routine.

Take notes and use a planner.

Cut down on distractions at work and elsewhere.

Use a pill box to keep track of your medications.

When to Call Your Doctor: Some side effects need immediate medical help. Call your doctor right away if you have:

A temperature over 100.4 degrees

Bleeding or bruises when you didn’t bump anything

A rash or allergic reaction, like swelling or trouble breathing or swallowing

Intense chills

Pain you can’t explain

Trouble breathing

Blood in the toilet after you use the bathroom

Diarrhea or vomiting that won’t go away