Cleaning your house
Your house or apartment should be cleaned thoroughly before you come home from the hospital. Your family or friends should:
- Shampoo the carpets and wash the floors.
- Clean drapes, blinds and furniture.
- Change air conditioning and furnace filters.
- Turn off humidifiers.
- Keep windows and doors closed.
- Remove any fresh or dried flowers.
- And they shouldn't do any remodeling to your home at this time. Pulling up old carpeting or opening walls can release many fungi into the air. A common fungus called aspergillus is often found where buildings are being remodeled or at construction sites. Aspergillus can cause very serious infections for people who have a weakened immune system.
You will need to ask others to do some household chores while you are at risk for infection. Some chores could expose you to bacteria, viruses or fungi that can cause infections. Some tasks you need to avoid include:
- Dirty jobs, like handling garbage, changing diapers or cleaning up after pets.
- Any yard work, including gardening, mowing the lawn or raking leaves.
- Caring for plants - any task that involves contact with indoor plants or potting soil.
- Dusting or vacuuming or even being in the room when dust is in the air.
- Carpentry or home repair projects.
- Any tasks that would expose you to lots of dust - for example, if you live on a farm, stay out of the barn.
- Grocery shopping, errands or other tasks that would expose you to crowds - you may be able to go to public places during times they are not crowded, such as late at night - follow your transplant center's instructions.
Transplant care teams vary in their recommendations. If the instructions from your hospital are different from what you read on this Web site, follow your transplant center's instructions. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions.
Pets and animals
Many people have strong attachments to their pets, and having them around can be important for a person's emotional well-being. Most established dogs and cats can stay in the home, but no new pets should be brought in. Arrange for someone else to do the feeding and cleanup, and limit your physical contact with pets as much as possible during your recovery.
- Dogs: Do not let dogs sleep with you or lick you. Wash yourself after any contact.
- Cats: Do not allow cats to go outside. Do not clean the litter box. Do not allow cats into areas where you eat, sleep or spend extended periods of time.
- Fish: A home aquarium is fine as long as someone else cleans it regularly.
- Birds: Many transplant centers do not recommend birds. However, if you would like to keep an established bird, have someone else clean the cage.
- Reptiles: Not recommended.
- Patients in rural areas should avoid barns, fields and contact with farm animals.
Houseplants, yards and gardens
Plants and soil contain bacteria, molds and fungi, so they should also be avoided until your immune system is back in action. As with pets, established plants in the home can stay, but do not bring in any new ones.
- Ask family and friends to explain to well-wishers that you cannot accept any plants or flowers as gifts. Real Christmas trees and other holiday plants should also be avoided.
- It is best to move plants to an area of the home where you will not be spending much time and have someone else take care of them. Many doctors recommend that you avoid outdoor gardening and yard work for the first year post transplant.
You do not need to wear a mask at home, unless instructed by your medial care team, but it is a good idea to change the air filters on your furnace once a month. Air purifiers such as a HEPA filter are okay to have, but not necessary. Also:
- Don't smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.
- To avoid soot, don't use fireplaces, candles, oil lamps or incense. If you enjoy candles, consider getting some safe and realistic, battery-operated LED candles.
- Avoid new construction, sawdust and environmental chemicals such as glue or oil-based paint.
Keeping protected when you go out
Try to avoid crowds by visiting public places like stores, restaurants and theaters at times when they are less busy. Also:
- Follow your transplant team's advice about wearing your mask in public. It is especially important to wear your mask on windy days, or when you are around construction sites or other areas with poor air quality.
- Bring protective gloves and disinfectant wipes with you to use in public restrooms or other locations where you might be at increased risk of infection. Carry several pairs with you.
- Avoid swimming in lakes, pools and hot tubs, both public and private.
- Always wash your hands again when you return home.
If you have children at home, talk with your transplant team about how your family can limit your risk of infections. Children tend to get many colds and other common infections, but these infections can be life-threatening to you until your immune system recovers. Things to think about include:
- Who will care for young children? It is usually recommended that they not attend day care, because they are exposed to many childhood illnesses there. However, while you are recovering from your transplant, you may not be able to handle childcare yourself either.
- How to reduce risks of catching illnesses brought home by school children.
- How to handle your children's immunizations. They should not get live vaccines while your immune system is weak.
- Each family is different. Talk with your transplant team and family to find a plan that works for you.
For more information on controlling your environment, see Returning to Work, Returning to School, and Getting Better.