After a bone marrow or cord blood transplant, it may take a year or more for your immune system to recover. A weakened immune system increases risk of infection that can be serious or even life-threatening. Learn what you can do to prevent infection, recognize early warning signs, and act quickly to get treatment.
Infections can be caused by bacteria, by viruses or by fungi. You will probably be given drugs to prevent infection even if you do not have any signs of infection. (Administering drugs to prevent infection is called infection prophylaxis.) If you get a high fever or other sign of infection, your doctors will give you drugs to treat the infection.
Bacterial infections - Bacterial infections are so common that most patients will have at least one during the early stages of recovery. They are most often caused by the bacteria normally in your mouth and gastrointestinal system. Infections around the place where the central line enters your body are also common.
Viral infections - The most common viral infection is herpes. If you have had herpes before, the herpes virus remains in your body and can become active when your white blood cell count is low. Another common viral infection is cytomegalovirus (CMV). Many people have this virus in their bodies without symptoms, but when your white blood cell count is low, CMV can develop into an active infection.
Fungal and yeast infections - The most common fungal or yeast infection is candida. The candida yeast lives in the mouth, intestines and vagina. Normally, bacteria in the body control candida, but the drugs that protect you from bacterial infections destroy these helpful bacteria. Candida can then grow into an active infection. Candida infections usually are fairly easy to treat. However, another common infection called aspergillus can be harder to treat. Aspergillus infections occur most often in the sinuses or lungs.
Act fast to address early warning signs and minimize complications
- Don't ignore or underestimate symptoms. You cannot be too careful.
- Call your medical team as soon as you notice any warning signs.
- Provide as much detail as you can