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How to manage the side effects of chemo

Health By Vivianne Wandera
The side effects of chemotherapy vary from patient to patient (Photo: Shutterstock)

Chemotherapy, which is the most effective cancer treatment, comes with side effects that vary in severity from patient to patient. Just as the side effects are different so are the modes of treating them.

There are some side effects that continue to manifest themselves long after one is done with treatment while others last only as long as one is still getting chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment.

This article describes the common side effects of chemotherapy and how one can manage them at home.

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea is not necessarily accompanied by vomiting but most of the people experience the two at the same time since radiation and chemotherapy cause both nausea and vomiting. Most patients are given medication to prevent nausea and vomiting as it can be severe.

Below are some of the things one can do at home to curb nausea and vomiting:

? Instead of having three large meals, eat small meals frequently during the day as nausea gets worse on an empty stomach.

? Make sure you eat slowly and chew your food completely.

? Avoid food that is too hot. Only eat room temperature food as the smell of warm or hot food can make you more nauseous.

? Do not drink liquids rapidly and do not mix cold and hot foods as this might make you vomit.

Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration (Photo: Shutterstock)


Continuous diarrhoea and vomiting leads to loss of water and nutrients. When you vomit and diarrhoea several times a day and you do not take enough fluids and water to supplement the water that is lost, you end up being dehydrated. Dehydration upsets the balance of essential substances in your body and can lead to complications if not dealt with.

When you start vomiting and having diarrhoea, drink a lot of water and healthy non-acidic juices that will not worsen the diarrhoea but also help in keeping you hydrated. In severe cases you will need to receive intravenous fluids from the hospital

Loss of appetite

Feeling nauseous as a result of radiation or chemotherapy also leads to loss of appetite. Maintaining a nutritious and healthy balanced diet is important, especially during chemotherapy as this gives you the energy you need to stay strong and be able to withstand the strong medications. One must eat small meals frequently, about six to eight times a day.

When you start experiencing loss of appetite, these are some things you can do to cope with it.

? Eat foods that are rich in protein and fat and avoid simple sugars. Eating fish, eggs and pudding will provide you with the high nutrition you need and also a lot of protein but in small proportions.

? Avoid foods with no nutritional value like chips, soda and snacks.

Mouth sores

Getting mouth sores is one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy. These can make it harder for one to eat and drink. Thus, it is necessary to perform mouth care as instructed by your doctor because if your mouth is kept clean and healthy, the chances for an infection are minimal.

When one gets mouth sores, these are some of the recommended ways to manage them.

? Avoid the use of commercial mouthwash and cough drops which come as tablets also known as lozenges.

? After each meal, brush your teeth with a small, soft toothbrush using fluoride toothpaste.

? Gargle by dissolving a quarter teaspoon of salt and baking soda into one cup of warm water and rinse your mouth and gargle this mixture between 4-6 times a day especially after having your meals and before going to bed.

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