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Infections after marrow transplant are relatively common. The new immune system needs time to adjust to your body. Also, some medicines that prevent or reduce graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) also weaken the immune system. However, a weak immune system increases your risk of serious, or even life-threatening, infections.

You know your body better than anyone else, so you are the best person to watch for symptoms or signs of infection. Tell your doctor about anything unusual so you can be diagnosed and treated quickly. Early treatment can lead to a smoother recovery.

By taking the following steps you can help your doctors diagnose and treat infections quickly.

  • Follow your transplant team’s recommendations for taking your temperature routinely and any time you feel ill, have chills, or suspect a fever. A fever is an early and important warning sign of infection.
  • Tell your doctor about any fever, diarrhea, frequent urination, blood in urine or stool, abdominal pain, or difficulty using the bathroom.
  • Watch for other warning signs including severe fatigue, bleeding, coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and severe headaches.
  • If your child received a transplant encourage them to talk to you about how they are feeling and if they are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Contact your transplant team immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms. Make sure you take any warning signs seriously and do not worry about sounding a false alarm. Early treatment of infections can make a significant difference in your long-term recovery.

Treating infection

If your transplant team suspects an infection, they will take samples. These samples may be of your blood, urine, stool or sputum (mucus from the lungs). They might do other tests such as a chest X-ray or CT scan. They want to find out whether there is an infection and if so, where and what it is. Infections can be bacterial, viral, or fungal. Each type of infection requires specific treatments.