Chemotherapy can reduce the number of white blood cells, which help fight infection. If the number of your white blood cells is low you'll be more prone to infections. A low white blood cell count is called neutropenia.
Always contact the hospital immediately on the 24-hour contact number you've been given and speak to a nurse or doctor if:
- you develop a high temperature – this may be over 37.5ºC (99.5ºF) or over 38ºC (100.4ºF) depending on the hospital's policy. Follow the advice that you have been given by your chemotherapy team
- you suddenly feel unwell, even with a normal temperature
- you feel shivery and shaky
- you have any symptoms of an infection such as a cold, sore throat, cough, passing urine frequently (urine infection), diarrhoea.
If necessary, you'll be given antibiotics to treat any infection. You'll have a blood test before each cycle of chemotherapy to make sure your white blood cells have recovered. Occasionally, your treatment may need to be delayed if the number of your white blood cells is still low.
We have information about avoiding infections.