Health Risks of Babies Around Chemotherapy Patients

Written by Pam MS, NCSP | Fact checked by Psychology Dictionary staff 

No one wants to subject themselves to the unpleasant symptoms and toxins involved with chemotherapy, but the unfortunate reality of a cancer diagnosis often gives people no choice. This is especially true when it comes to having a newborn baby while enduring chemotherapy treatment. Though everyone in a household where someone is undergoing chemotherapy has some risk of toxin exposure, this is most true for babies. Here is a look at some of the risks that children might face in a chemotherapy household.

The Basics
Though this may seem obvious, breastfeeding while undergoing chemotherapy is an absolute no-no. This will pass the medication on to your child, essentially poisoning him or her. However, there are other ways that babies can get a toxin load by snuggling with a parent or other relative undergoing treatment. Babies explore the world via their mouth, so avoid allowing them to suck on your skin anywhere.

Surfaces
Babies are at risk when it comes to floors as well. If medication or bodily fluids have spilled onto a floor and not been thoroughly cleaned, then a baby is at risk in several ways. Crawling or laying on a floor might cause some skin absorption of the chemotherapy chemicals. Also, sucking on hands or toys that have touched the floor can also give toxins to the baby. Because of this, areas like bathrooms that and bedrooms where vomiting is likely to occur should be off limits to a baby who is crawling or exploring.

Skin-to-Skin
Skin contact with a baby is an important part of security bonding with a newborn. However, since sweat can contain absorptive toxins, people undergoing chemotherapy should avoid direct skin contact with a baby. This includes sleeping with a child as well as bare skinned cuddling. The barrier between you and the baby should not belong to the baby and be something, like a swaddle blanket, that they will spend a lot of time touching after you are done holding them. Instead, it should either be a piece of your own clothing, or something that will go into your separate chemotherapy-only laundry

Medication
Whether the child is a newborn, toddler, or young child, the risk of ingestion of medication is extreme. Children explore the world with their mouths in the earliest stages of development, and a poorly stored medication is a large risk. Be certain around babies, whether they live with you or are just visiting, that your medications are put away in a secure and inaccessible location. Keep cupboards that hold any medical supplies closed with a childproof device, and keep special watch on a baby when they are in a room where medications are stored. Accidental ingestion is likely to cause poisoning, permanent health conditions, or even death.

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