The immune system is often weakened by cancer treatments, making the body more susceptible to foodborne illness.
White bloods help protect against infection. Unfortunately, chemotherapy drugs are not able to tell the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells. For this reason, healthy white blood cells are damaged during treatment and shortly thereafter. Neutropenia is a condition where you have lower-than-normal levels of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell).
The following are some tips to reduce exposure and avoid infection and illness during and after cancer treatment.
Keep everything clean.
- Wash hands often and thoroughly especially before handling any food as well as after. Be sure to wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Pay special attention to finger nails and the backs of the hands.
- Keep raw and cooked foods separate. Do not reuse any utensils, cutting boards, plates, dishes, etc. once they have been touched by raw meat or eggs. Utensils, cutting boards, plates, dishes, etc. that have been used for preparing raw meats or eggs should be washed in hot, soapy water. It is best to keep separate cutting boards for meat and fruits/vegetables. Have an extra clean cutting board available for additional preparation as well.
- When shopping for and storing raw meats, keep them away from other foods and cover the packages with extra plastic wrap or use plastic bags. This will prevent any liquids from leaking onto other foods or surfaces. Store meats and eggs toward the bottom of the refrigerator to prevent any dripping on other foods below.
Cook food thoroughly.
- Avoid raw meat such as sushi, undercooked eggs and other meats that have not been cooked to a proper internal temperature.
- Cook all eggs until both the white and the yolk are firm. Avoid foods that may contain raw eggs, such as raw cookie dough and homemade mayonnaise.
- Use a meat thermometer to make sure that all meats are cooked to the proper internal temperature prior to eating. Here is a chart for reference: