Anti-rejection drugs (also known as immunosuppressants) protect your transplanted organ from attack by your immune system. However, in order to do this they suppress your immune system, making your body less able to fight genuine external invaders like viruses and bacteria. This means you are susceptible to infections.
Common infections experienced by transplant recipients include urine infections, chest infections, and fungal infections like thrush.
Reduce your risk of infection
There are some precautions you can take to stay as healthy as possible and avoid infection.
• Wash your hands frequently
• Only eat foods that have been cooked thoroughly
• Avoid contact (being in the same room) with anyone with infections such as colds, flu or chickenpox
• Notify your transplant team if any of your family members have recently received a live vaccine
• Keep your teeth and gums healthy
You are at a higher risk of infection when you are taking higher doses of anti-rejection drugs, such as straight after your transplant. During this time you might be prescribed an anti-fungal medication and antibiotics to help protect you against infections.
Keeping up-to-date with vaccinations can also protect against specific infections. However, there are some vaccines that are not safe for people taking anti-rejection medications; ask your transplant team which vaccinations you should have.
Symptoms of infection
Symptoms can vary depending on the type of infection; common symptoms of common infections are listed below.
• Fever (a high temperature, over 38°C or 100°F)
• Flu-like symptoms, such as body aches and pains, chills, tiredness and headache
• Coughing up yellow or green mucus
• Severe diarrhoea
• A burning feeling when you urinate
• Vaginal discharge or itching
• A wound that oozes fluid or has redness spreading from it
Contact your transplant team immediately if you have any signs of infection.