After your transplant, you will be taking medications called "immunosuppressants." These drugs prevent your body's immune system from rejecting your new heart. However, they also increase your risk for infection.
During your hospital stay, you should begin to take steps to avoid infection. Many of these good habits will also help you prevent infection at home.
Practice good hygiene
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water, especially after using the bathroom and touching soiled clothing or bedding. Lather well, rubbing your hands back and forth together, to clean all surfaces, including the nail beds and the webbing between your fingers.
- You will have bedside baths for about the first week in the hospital. After that, it is recommended that you shower every day. If you have oily hair, try to keep it clean and pulled away from your face.
- Wash your face in the morning and at bedtime, using a mild soap and washcloth. To help prevent acne, keep your skin as clean and oil-free as possible.
Take care of your mouth and teeth
- Examine your mouth and gums daily.
- After each meal, brush your teeth with a small, soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
- Use dental floss daily.
- If a mouth sore develops, eat foods that are warm or at room temperature and avoid eating acidic foods and beverages (such as tomatoes and oranges).
- See your dentist regularly.
Protect your skin from scratches, sores and other irritations that might lead to infection
- If you have a cut (even if it is small), clean the area will with soap and water or hydrogen peroxide, dry your skin, and cover the cut with a sterile bandage.
Your friends and family can help prevent infection. They can:
- Do not bring any food from outside sources, including from home. Plants, balloons and flowers (fresh or silk) are allowed.
- Follow the transplant unit's guidelines about hand washing.
- Not visit if they have cold or flu symptoms (such as fever, cough or runny nose). They may visit when they are feeling well.
Signs of Infection
If you have symptoms of infection, notify your health care provider right away. Look for these signs:
- Fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.4 degrees Celsius)
- Sweats or chills
- Skin rash
- Pain, tenderness, redness or swelling
- Wound or cut that will not heal
- Red, warm or draining sore
- Sore throat, scratchy throat or pain when swallowing
- Sinus drainage, nasal congestion, headaches or tenderness along upper cheekbones
- Persistent dry or moist cough that lasts more than two days
- White patches in your mouth or on your tongue
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Flu-like symptoms (chills, aches, headache or fatigue) or generally feeling "lousy"
- Trouble urinating: pain or burning, constant urge or frequent urination
- Bloody, cloudy or foul-smelling urine