Immunocompromised? Here are 3 things to be aware of

If your immune system doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to – maybe you take immune suppressing treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, or you’ve had an organ transplant – you’re probably aware that you have a harder time fighting infection. Here are a few common areas of risk to be aware of:

Food safety
While nobody wants to get food poisoning, generally people can recover quickly. However, food poisoning can occasionally cause serious complications – mainly for those who have compromised immune systems. Talk to your health-care team about any foods that put you at greater risk for food poisoning, such as fresh deli meats or raw seafood.

Dormant viruses
Everyone gets a cold or flu from time to time and usually recovers fully. However, at times, certain viruses may remain dormant in your body and then re-activate later when your immune system is weak. Cytomegalovirus, or CMV, is one that as many as half of Canadian adults have been exposed to in their lifetime, but thanks to their healthy immune systems, it goes unnoticed. But, for those who are immunocompromised or received a transplant, this virus can be dangerous.

For immunocompromised adults, particularly those who have had an organ transplant, CMV may bring joint pain, an inflamed liver and various blood disorders. In many cases, transplant patients who get CMV have a reactivation of the CMV virus that’s been dormant in them since childhood. Transplant recipients are at higher risk because medications they must take to help prevent organ rejection have a major effect on the immune system’s ability to fight infections.

Pet care reminders
Our furry – or scaly or feathered – friends are incredibly important to us. But it’s smart to be aware of health risks they occasionally carry. If you adopt a new pet, be certain to have it checked for parasites, viruses and bacteria that can transfer to humans. Remember to apply appropriate preventative treatments if your pet spends time outside, and regularly wash their bedding or blankets.

Many pets also have bacteria in their mouths that can lead to infection – after all, think of what they’re licking day-to-day – so be sure to treat any scratches or bites, however minor, to prevent infection. Be careful when scooping their poop as well, as parasites like toxoplasmosis can have a serious impact. These tips apply to most pet owners, but they are especially important to be aware of for those of us for whom getting sick is more dangerous.

If you are immunocompromised, speak with your health-care providers about how to manage risks.

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