Taking care while you are away

Try to be careful about what you eat and drink when away, as infectious diseases can spread through contaminated food and water. If you are not sure whether the drinking water is clean where you are, you should sterilise it. Alternatively, use bottled water.

You should only eat food that has been cooked thoroughly and is still hot. Avoid uncooked food, unless you can peel it or remove the shell yourself. 

In some countries, many diseases can be spread by insects and animals. Always use insect repellent and cover your arms and legs. If you are scratched or bitten by an animal, see a doctor immediately.

Protecting your skin from the sun is important for everyone. But some cancer treatments can make your skin more sensitive to damage. Here are some tips for protecting yourself:

  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Use a sun cream with a high sun protection factor (at least SPF 30).
  • Wear clothing made of cotton or natural fibres.
  • Avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm.
  • If you have had radiotherapy, keep the affected area well covered.

Eating and drinking

Wherever you are in the world, be careful about what you eat and drink. Many infectious diseases are spread by contaminated food and water. This includes water in:

  • swimming pools
  • lakes
  • rivers 
  • the sea.

Try not to swallow water when you are swimming.

If you are still at risk of infection, you will need to be very careful about what you eat and drink. Make sure you always follow any advice your cancer team has given you.

Tips for avoiding stomach upsets

  • If you are not sure that the drinking water is clean, you should sterilise it. You can do this by boiling it for one minute, or by using a filtering system or sterilisation tablets. At high altitudes, you may need to boil water for longer than usual to sterilise it properly.
  • Use bottled water if you are not sure that the water is clean.
  • Make sure that seals on bottles of water are not broken before opening.
  • Avoid ice, unless you are sure it is made from safe water.
  • Only eat freshly cooked food that has been cooked thoroughly and is still hot.
  • Avoid uncooked food, unless you can peel it or remove the shell yourself.
  • Avoid food that may have been exposed to flies, such as hotels buffets that may have been left out for some time, or food from street traders.
  • Avoid ice cream from unreliable sources, such as kiosks.
  • Avoid or boil unpasteurised milk.
  • Be careful when eating shellfish, as they may contain harmful bacteria. Make sure shellfish is cooked thoroughly, or avoid eating it.


Insects

In some countries, many diseases can be spread by insects and ticks. Always use insect repellent, preferably containing at least 50% DEET (diethyl-m-toluamide). This is the main ingredient that makes insect repellent work. Cover your arms and legs with appropriate clothing, especially if you are walking in grassy or wooded areas.


Animals

Animal bites and scratches can lead to dangerous infections. It is important to be careful, even with animals that seem harmless. Animals in many regions, including most of Europe and North America, can carry rabies.

If you are scratched or bitten, you should follow these steps:

  1. Clean the wound carefully with soap and water.
  2. Apply an antiseptic if you can. 
  3. See a doctor immediately.


Taking care in the sun

During and after treatment, it is very important to protect your skin from the sun. Some cancer treatments can make your skin more sensitive to damage from the sun. This can be temporary or permanent. How sensitive your skin is to the sun will also depend on the type and dose of your treatment.

If you have had chemotherapy

Some chemotherapy drugs can make your skin more sensitive. This can sometimes last for several years after treatment. If you have had chemotherapy, you can ask your doctor whether you need to take special care to protect your skin.

Some people also find that their skin is sensitive to chemicals such as chlorine, and may need to avoid swimming in pools that have been treated with chlorine.

If you have had radiotherapy

The skin in the area that was treated by radiotherapy will stay sensitive for many years. This means you are at a higher risk of long-term sun damage, including skin cancers. You should take extra care to protect it from the sun.

You do not need to avoid the sun completely. But it is good to start with going out into the sun only for very short periods and to use sun cream with a high sun protection factor (at least SPF 30). If this causes no problems, you can gradually increase the time you spend in the sun.

If you have had targeted therapies

Many targeted therapy drugs or biological therapies can make your skin very sensitive to the sun. Your skin may burn more easily than normal. You can still go out in the sun, but you should wear a sun cream with a high sun protection factor (at least SPF 30). Cover up your body as much as possible with clothing and a hat.

Tips for protecting yourself in the sun

Following the advice below will help make sure that your skin does not burn:

  • Protect your face and neck with a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Wear sunglasses with a guaranteed ultraviolet (UV) light filter.
  • Use a sun cream with a high sun protection factor (at least SPF 30). Follow the instructions on the bottle and reapply as recommended, particularly after swimming.
  • Wear clothing made of cotton or natural fibres. These have a closer weave and offer more protection from the sun.
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, usually between 11am and 3pm. Try to sit in the shade, even at other times of the day.
  • If you have had radiotherapy, keep the treated area completely covered.
  • Use fake tanning lotions or sprays to give yourself a tan, instead of sunbathing or using a sun-bed.
  • If you have to apply bite or mosquito repellent cream, apply the sunscreen first, followed by the repellent cream.

Back to Staying safe

Avoiding health problems

Wherever you are in the world, there are ways to try and prevent health problems while you’re away.