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People with myeloma have a greater possibility of infection, so it’s important to know what to look out for and what you should do if you notice something isn’t quite right.
Myeloma starts in bone marrow—the soft center of certain bones—where red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are formed. It prevents plasma cells, a kind of white blood cell, from making antibodies, which help fight infection. Myeloma produces large amounts of a protein that doesn’t fight infection. In fact, these proteins crowd out the infection-fighting cells. Because many treatments used to fight myeloma also compromise the immune system, people with myeloma get infections much more often than those without the condition and also take longer to heal.
The good news is that you can limit your exposure to infections and work with your health care team to maximize protection. The more you know about the signs, symptoms, and treatments of infection, the better prepared you’ll be.
Avoidance is key.
Many types of infections are spread through direct contact with germs. Here are some tips to help you avoid them:
- Wash your hands frequently and encourage others in your household to do so as well. Wash before eating, after sneezing, and after visiting a public place. Carry hand sanitizer for times when you don’t have access to soap and water.
- Avoid large crowds of people to reduce your risk of exposure to an infection, particularly at times when your doctor says you may be at greatest risk.
- Avoid people who show signs of being sick and places where sick people may gather. A trip to the doctor as part of your treatment is a must, of course, but a visit to the hospital to see a friend may not be a good idea.
- Food-borne infections are common as well, so cook food to recommended internal temperatures and follow safe handling procedures for meat and produce. You’ll also want to make sure you thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables.
- Don’t share towels, clothes, or drinking glasses with others.
- Avoid changing diapers, picking up dog droppings, or cleaning litter boxes.
- Immediately clean open sores with soap and warm water, and cover with a bandage.
- Talk with your doctor about other ways to minimize risk, particularly if traveling or trying out a new activity.
- Talk to your doctor about vaccinations—for both yourself and those close to you.
You know your body, so pay attention when things feel off or different. Many signs of infection mirror that of the flu, including high fever (above 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit), chills, or aches and fatigue without fever. You may also have diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, a cough, sore throat, rash, or pain during urination. If you have any of these symptoms, immediately talk to your doctor.
Although it is rare, your practitioner may suggest the use of antibiotics when you don’t have an infection to decrease your risk of developing one. This step is more likely if you’re currently undergoing chemotherapy to treat myeloma. Note that even if you’re taking antibiotics, you’re still at a high risk of infection so continue to observe the prevention techniques outlined above.
This information is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about your medical condition and prior to starting any new treatment. CVS Specialty assumes no liability whatsoever for the information provided or for any diagnosis or treatment made as a result, nor is it responsible for the reliability of the content.
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