Infections and Vaccinations

A major reason for the establishment of specialist units such as the Brisbane Clinic for Lymphoma, Myeloma and Leukaemia is to ensure patients with these conditions have rapid access to specialists with a range of expertise. Infections are a major concern for anybody with leukaemia, myeloma or lymphoma. Having these diseases can suppress the immune system and this problem is temporarily worsened by treatments such as chemotherapy. 

We work in close association with specialists in infection at Greenslopes Private Hospital who have particular expertise in the safe management of infections in patients whose immune systems are depleted by chemotherapy. If you have a serious infection, particularly an infection requiring admission to hospital, you will be looked after by an infection specialist to ensure you get the best and safest antibiotics. As infection management is just one part of your overall care, if you are admitted to hospital for an infection you will generally remain under the care of Dr Nicol as well as an infection specialist to ensure the treatment of the infection is in line with your overall management and the particular goals that have been established for your treatment.

What should you do if you suspect you have an infection while undergoing treatment?

If you have had chemotherapy and you have a fever or other symptoms suggesting an infection such as chills or rigors (shaking) you should contact Dr Nicol immediately and prepare for possible admission to hospital.  If it is out of usual working hours and the problem can not be solved immediately by phone, you should go immediately to the 24-hour emergency centre at Greenslopes Private Hospital. Experienced emergency specialists and facilities for x-rays and urgent blood tests are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The emergency specialists will liaise with Dr Nicol, arrange an admission to hospital if necessary and start any urgent treatment.

If you have a fever, do not take paracetamol or other medications to try and bring the temperature down as it is important to know how long a fever lasts. Normal body temperature is up to 37.3 Celsius. If you have a temperature of 38 Celsius or above you should contact us immediately.

Patients undergoing chemotherapy should have a thermometer with them at all times. If you are undergoing chemotherapy, Dr Nicol will give you additional information and instructions about what to do in the event of a fever.

What should you do if you have a "minor" infection when you are not undergoing treatment?

People with lymphoma, myeloma and leukaemia who are not currently undergoing treatment suffer the same infections as the rest of the population. These can generally be managed by your GP.  If you are not currently undergoing chemotherapy but have an infection (such as a cold or flu like illness) on the day you have an appointment at the Clinic, you should contact  Dr Nicol before coming to the appointment. This is because there is high chance you will come in contact with other people with lowered immunity who may not be able to withstand these illnesses. If it is important for you to be seen, then appropriate arrangements will be made so that you can be seen without risking the spread of your infection.

Vaccinations

In view of the reduced immunity as a result of chemotherapy it is important to be up to date with vaccinations for influenza and pneumonia.  These and other vaccinations will generally be administered by your GP, but you should also discuss your vaccination requirements with Dr Nicol. It is important to remember that while most vaccinations are safe for people with suppressed immunity (including influenza and pneumonia vaccines), some vaccinations should not be given to people having or who have recently had chemotherapy.  Patients who undergo stem cell transplantation need additional vaccinations after the transplant has been completed. You will be given information about what vaccinations are required and when they should be administered.

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