Skin and Nails during Cancer Therapy
Chemotherapy can cause itching, peeling, dry and irritated skin, rashes and acne.
If your child does not have a central line, her veins receiving IV chemotherapy drugs may darken during treatment. However, this will fade once the course of treatment has ended.
During radiotherapy, the area around the exit site of the beam may become red and sore, and the eye may be sore and sticky.
Use anti-bacterial soap and a water based moisturizer.
Do not bathe your child in hot water as this may dry out the skin too much.
Avoid scratchy, irritating clothes such as wool, or those likely to cause sweating. Your child will feel far more comfortable in loose, soft cotton garments.
During treatment and for at least 6 months after, apply sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of no less than 30 when in the sun. Irradiated and exposed skin is particularly vulnerable to burning. When your child is with friends or at daycare/school, provide sunscreen and ensure the carers understand the importance of regular application while outside.
Use broad-rimmed sunhats and sunglasses to keep the face and eyes shaded. Insist your child wear these every time she is outside. This is particularly important if your child is bald, and/or has received radiotherapy.
Keep your child’s fingernails trimmed short to prevent breakage during and immediately after chemotherapy. Brittle, broken or chipped nails are particularly possible as they grow out after treatment. A white band or ridge may appear on the nail. Once this has grown out, the nail should become stronger, and less vulnerable.
Do not use false nails on your child as infections can develop underneath and they can mask the early warning signs of a developing problem.
During Chemotherapy Infusions
During drug infusions, leakage from an IV cannula may damage surrounding skin and tissues. This is a particular issue with vincristine, and rarely occurs with a central line.
Be vigilant for signs of leakage at the IV site – stinging or burning sensation, redness or swelling. Alert the nurse or doctor immediately if you suspect a problem. The infusion will be stopped and the IV replaced.
Treatment of Damaged Skin or Nails
Discourage your child from scratching rashes, as this spreads infection.
Use cornstarch, sudocrem, calamine lotion or aloe vera to soothe itchy skin.
Ensure medicated creams are given correctly, according to packaging instructions and the doctor or pharmacist’s directions.
If the doctors suspect an eye infection during radiotherapy, they will take a swab, and prescribe a course of eye drops if necessary.
If your child develops a severe or extensive rash or prolonged itching, consult her doctor for advice on appropriate treatment. Contact the doctor immediately if these symptoms appear when your child has low white blood counts.