Side Effects of Chemotherapy

 

Digestive Tract Problems

Side Effect What You Can Do
Nausea and Vomiting
  • Speak to your child’s doctor regarding any medication that can be prescribed to help control the  nausea and vomiting and/or a sedative to help your child sleep through the nausea;
  • Ask your doctor if it is okay to give your child milk or antacids before taking oral anticancer drugs. Some oral anticancer drugs should not be taken with milk;
  • Feed your child something light about 3-4 hours before the treatment;
  • Encourage your child to rather eat small amounts of food often and slowly than try to eat a big meal;
  • Do not give your child  greasy, sweet, or spicy foods or foods that have strong smells;
  • Make your child cold meals like sandwiches instead of hot food;
  • Encourage your child to drink liquids first – then wait 30-60 minutes before eating solids. Most children can handle liquids better than solids;
  • See that your child rests after meals;
  • If your child is vomiting, do not give him or her anything to eat or drink until the vomiting is under control:
    • Once the vomiting is under control, give him or her small amounts of clear liquids such as water, a thin stock soup, milk-free ice lollies, and gelatine desserts
    • Start with 1 teaspoon every 10 minutes and gradually increase the amount to 1 tablespoon every 20 minutes. Work up to 2 tablespoonfuls every 30 minutes
    • When your child can keep down clear liquids, try denser liquids such as strained cereal, pudding, yoghurt, milkshakes, and cream soups
    • Give small amounts as often as your child can keep them down, and gradually work up to solid foods
Diarrhoea
  • Contact your doctor if your child’s diarrhoea is severe; this means if they have more than 3 loose stools per day;
  • Avoid giving your child fatty foods;
  • Serve foods that are high in protein and calories but low in fibre, such as plain or vanilla yoghurt, rice with stock, or noodles;
  • Give your child foods and liquids that are high in sodium and potassium:
    • Foods that are high in potassium and do not cause diarrhoea are boiled or mashed potatoes, and bananas, peaches and apricot juices
Constipation
  • Call your doctor if your child goes more than 2 days without having a bowel movement;
  • Encourage your child to drink more fluids, such as apple juice;
  • Make sure your child gets at least some exercise;
  • Give your child high-fibre foods like wholegrain breads and cereals; brown rice; raw fresh vegetables; and dried fruits like raisins and prunes.
Heartburn or Stomach Ache
  • Speak to your child’s doctor about giving him or her an antacid
  • Avoid serving your child foods that are fried, greasy or very spicy.

Mouth Problems

Side Effect What You Can Do
Sore Mouth or Throat/Mouth Sores
  • Consult your child’s doctor for medicine for your child’s mouth; this could include sprays, special mouthwashes, and medicated sweets;
  • Give your child a sponge toothbrush or a cotton cloth to clean his or her teeth;
  • Let your child rinse his or her mouth every 2-3 hours and after meals using plain water or a paste of baking soda and water;
  • Avoid giving your child very hot, cold, spicy, or acidic foods;
  • Serve soft foods.

Contact your child’s doctor if your child has mouth sores, painful areas, or patches of red or white in their mouth.

Change in Taste – Foods Have Less Taste or a Bitter Metallic Taste
  • Try to give your child well-seasoned foods, sharp-tasting or acidic foods like oranges, lemonade, or lemon pie. (Do not give your child these foods if they have a sore mouth, throat, or gums.)
  • Pizza and corn chips often become children’s favourite foods.

Skin & Hair Problems

Side Effect What You Can Do
Hair Loss
  • Use a mild shampoo;
  • Cut your child’s hair short;
  • Avoid using hair dryers and electric curlers;
  • Use a wide-tooth comb;
  • If you are planning to have your child wear a wig, choose it before your child loses all their hair;
  • Protect your child’s scalp from sun and cold;
  • Try different hats, caps, beanies and scarves
Skin Redness
  • Consult your doctor if redness, pain, or swelling occurs
Dry, Itching Skin
  • Use mild soap and moisturisers. (Check with your child’s doctor before using moisturiser if he or she is undergoing radiation therapy.)
Moist Skin
  • Wash your child’s skin 2-3 times per day. Pat dry with a clean towel and powder lightly with corn-starch (Maizena).
Rashes
  • Call your child’s doctor; he or she may prescribe medication
Sun Sensitivity
  • Avoid sun exposure. Use a sun-blocking lotion with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 or higher
Swelling, Redness, or Pain at The Needle Site Where Chemotherapy Drugs are Given
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs given intravenously can cause burns and sores on your child’s skin if they leak out of the vein.
  • Tell your doctor or nurse right away if leaking occurs.

Kidney & Bladder Problems

Side Effect What You Can Do
Bladder Irritation and Infection
  • Give your child lots of fluids, especially days before and after treatment as well as on the day of treatment. The amount of fluids needed depends on your child’s size, so discuss this with their doctor;
  • Avoid giving drinks with caffeine in (Coffee, Coke etc.);
  • Consult the doctor if your child has pain or burning when urinating; urinates a lot; has reddish or bloody urine; feels as though they need to urinate right away, or if he or she is unable to urinate.
Change in Urine Colour &  Strong Urine Odour
  • Some drugs cause the urine to turn orange, red, or bright yellow and to have a strong smell;
  • Ask the doctor if the medication your child is being given is likely to change the colour or smell of his or her urine.

Nerve Problems

Side Effect What You Can Do
Nerve Damage
  • Certain chemotherapy treatments can damage nerves, causing difficulties with walking and talking or jaw pain.
  • Call the doctor if any of these problems occur.
Bone Problems
Side Effect What You Can Do
Stress Fractures
  • Some chemotherapy can weaken the bones and cause stress fractures.
  • Notify the doctor if your child develops any pain in his or her arms or legs, or if your child develops a limp.
Systemic Problems (Involving The Entire Body)
Side Effect What You Can Do
Fever
  • Call the doctor if your child’s temperature goes above 38°C.
  • Do not give your child any over-the-counter medications to reduce the fever unless the doctor tells you to do so.
Flu-Like Symptoms
  • Flu-like symptoms may occur a few hours to a few days after a bout of chemotherapy; they include headache, a slight fever, tiredness, muscle aches, chills, and a poor appetite;
  • These symptoms may also be from either an infection or the cancer;
  • Call the doctor!
Infection
  • Many anticancer drugs lower the number of white blood cells, which compromises the immune system and makes it harder for the body to fight infections.
  • Here is what you can do:
    • Where possible, avoid taking your child into crowds.
    • Avoid being around people with colds, flu, or any other contagious diseases;
    • Avoid being around anyone who has recently been immunised with a vaccine containing live viruses (regular measles; German measles, or rubella; mumps; polio; and chickenpox).
    • Call the doctor if your child is exposed to known infectious illnesses (e.g. measles or chickenpox).
  • If your child’s white blood count falls too low, the doctor may postpone the next treatment or give a lower dose of drugs for a while.
Anaemia/Fatigue
  • Chemotherapy can lower the bone marrow’s ability to make red blood cells; this will cause anaemia.
  • Here is what you can do:
    • Look for signs of weakness, tiredness, dizziness, chills, or shortness of breath in your child;
    • Call the doctor if your child develops any of these symptoms.
Blood Clotting Problems (Bleeding)
  • Chemotherapy can sometoimes affect the body’s ability to make platelets, which are the blood cells that help the blood to clot.
  • Without enough platelets, your child may bleed or bruise more easily than usual; this may require a blood transfusion.
  • Here is what you can do:
    • Look out for bruises, bleeding from the nose or gums, small red or purple spots under the skin, reddish or pinkish urine, or black or bloody bowel movements.
  • Call the doctor if your child develops any of the above symptoms.
Swelling/Fluid Retention
  • If you notice swelling or puffiness in your child’s face, hands, feet, or abdomen, get in touch with your doctor;
  • The doctor may either recommend limiting your child’s table salt and salty food intake and/or prescribe medicine to get rid of the extra fluid.
Allergic Reaction
  • Allergic reaction can be serious but is not common;
  • Keep an eye out for fainting, a fever, a rash, or your child having difficulty breathing;
  • Call the doctor immediately should you notice any of the above reactions in your child

 

 

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