Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Low ANC - Neutropenia

Here's a little medical education and what having a low blood count means.

The normal neutrophil count is 2,500-6,000.  When you have 1,000 or fewer neutrophils, your risk of infection is increased.  When it's lower than 500, you are at risk for getting a serious infection.  This condition is called neutropenia. 

Things I need to look for given my neutropenic status at 80 ANC count"
  • Fever - 100.5 is the magic number
  • Shaking chills
  • Flushed skin
  • Sweating (guessing my hot flashes don't count)
  • Frequent urination or burning
  • Redness, tenderness, or pain anywhere in the body  
  • General feeling of tiredness or flu-like symptoms (sore throat, sneezing, runny nose, coughing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, chest discomfort)

General precautions I can take:
  • Wash, wash, wash, wash hands.
  • Check temp. throughout the day - looking for that magic number.  No Tylenol products can be used since they suppress a temp., and we would want to know what it is.  
  • Check for any sings of infection in cuts, mouth, etc.
  • Shower or bathe daily - seems strange, but I guess people don't already do that. :o)
  • Rinse teeth and gums after meals and at bed time.
  • Use a soft toothbrush.
  • No flossing. (Good thing I don't ever do this.) :o)
  • Avoid contact with crowds, people with illness/infections, and public places.
  • Avoid working with dirt/soil.
  • Avoid cleaning bird cages, cat litter, and fish tanks. (Good thing Puddy became an outside kitty months ago.)
  • No manicures or pedicures.
  • No hot tubs and jacuzzis.
  • Limit exposure to fresh flowers, house plants, and stagnant water.
  • Be careful to avoid cuts and scrapes.
  • Cook meat until well done, and limit exposure to restaurants since you don't know how the meat was prepared.
  • No salad bars or buffets.
There are others, but they are a little TMI so I won't share them.

Today I have been trying to disinfect things and clean some of the toys that make it into C's mouth on a regular basis.  If only we could see germs.  This reminds me of the chorus to one of my favorite kid songs.  "I hide him in my pocket cause he's very, very small.  Germs, germs, my invisible dog."

There is, unfortunately, nothing I can do to increase my counts.  My body has to rebuild them on its own.  The only thing I can do is take precautions, and try and limit my exposure to germs so I do not end up in the ER or worse, spend days in the hospital.

Remember those nasty shots Steve was giving me during phase 1???  They were the only thing keeping me from taking this turn before.  Because they take cells from your bone marrow to make new white blood cells, they are hard on the body.  I know at this point they are not recommending I use this, so we will patiently wait for my body to kick back in gear.  I just hope once they are back up, I will be able to maintain a healthy level going forward so we are not continuing to push treatments back.

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