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. Your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics and other drugs to help prevent an infection. Your nurse may give you injections of a drug called G-CSF under the skin. It encourages the bone marrow to make more of a type of white blood cells called neutrophils.
While you are an inpatient your nurse will check your temperature regularly and monitor you for any other signs of infection. Always let them know if you feel unwell or cold and shivery.
If you are at home 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, which may be over 37.5°C (99.5°F) or over 38°C (100.4°F) 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), or diarrhoea.
You’ll be given antibiotics to treat any infection. You’ll have regular blood tests to check the levels of all your blood cells.
Your treatment may need to be delayed if the number of your white blood cells is low.
We have more information on how to avoid infection when you have low immunity, which you may find helpful.