The anti-rejection medications you take to protect your new organ will also make your immune system weak, and you’ll be at greatest risk for developing infections such as colds and the flu. Even simple infections can be serious to a transplant patient.
As your anti-rejection medications are decreased, you will be better able to fight off infections. You will be taking anti-rejection medications for the rest of your life, so you will need to be very careful to avoid potential infections. If you stop or decrease your anti-rejection medication, your new organ will be rejected quickly.
Signs of infection include:
- Fever over 101F
- Redness, pain or drainage at your incision
- Sore or scratchy throat
- Cough or shortness of breath
- Flu-like symptoms: chills, aches, pains, headache, fatigue, nausea and vomiting
- Burning, painful, frequent urination
You can decrease your risk of infection in a number of ways. We have listed some guidelines for you.
To reduce the risk of infection :
- Wash your hands often
- Avoid crowds
- Avoid people who may be sick
- Do not walk barefoot
- Avoid raw or undercooked meats
- Avoid raw or undercooked seafood, including sushi and raw oysters
Dogs and cats are appropriate to have in your home, as long as they’ve been evaluated by your veterinarian to be sure they’re free of disease. Do not clean up after your pets. Someone else in the home will have to take on this responsibility. Birds and reptiles are not allowed, as they may pass along infections to humans.
Vaccines and Viruses
You cannot receive any vaccines containing live viruses. These include chickenpox, smallpox, MMR, and oral polio. Avoid children who have received live vaccines. One year after your transplant, you will be eligible to receive flu shots and the pneumovax vaccine for pneumococcal pneumonia.
Avoid gardening for the first year after transplant. Afterwards, you must wear gloves and a mask to protect against molds and fungus. Wash your hands thoroughly after gardening.
You should brush and floss everyday to protect from gum disease that can lead to infection. Do not have any dental work done for the first few months after your transplant. After this time, it is important to maintain regular dental appointments, because some of the immunosuppressive medications can affect your gums. Let your dentist know that you have had a transplant. Routine cleaning and major dental work (extraction) requires oral antibiotics to prevent infection. Notify the transplant team if you are to have dental work so that you can receive the proper antibiotics.
The most common infections include:
- Urinary tract infection
- Intestinal infection
- Chest or lung infection
- Fever blisters or herpes
- Infection in the mouth
- Infection near the incision
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
To find out more about the Methodist Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation, call us at 713-441-8839 or at 866-94-LIVER (866-945-4837) or send us an email.