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Interferon can decrease your white blood cell count (these are the cells that fight infections). Your doctor will check your blood cell count often while you are taking interferon, and if your white cell count falls too low, your doctor may lower the dosage of interferon for a while to give your body a chance to rebuild its defenses.

When your white count is lower than normal, it is very important to try to prevent infections by taking the following steps:

  • Wash your hands often during the day. Be sure to wash them extra well before you eat and before and after you use the bathroom.

  • Clean your rectal area gently but thoroughly after each bowel movement. Ask your doctor or nurse for advice if the area becomes irritated or if you have hemorrhoids.

  • Stay away from people who have diseases you can catch, such as a cold, the flu, measles, or chickenpox. Also try to avoid crowds.

  • Don’t cut or tear the cuticles of your nails. Use cuticle cream and remover instead.

  • Be careful not to cut or nick yourself when using scissors, needles, or knives.

  • Use an electric shaver instead of a razor to prevent breaks or cuts in your skin.

  • Use a soft toothbrush that won’t hurt your gums.

  • Don’t squeeze or scratch pimples.

  • Take a warm (not hot) bath, shower, or sponge bath every day.

  • Pat your skin dry using a light touch. Don’t rub.

  • Use lotion or oil to soften and heal your skin if it becomes dry and cracked.

  • Clean cuts and scrapes right away with warm water, soap, and an antiseptic.

  • Wear protective gloves when gardening or cleaning up after animals.

  • Do not get any immunization shots without checking first with your doctor to see if it’s all right.

Even if you take extra care, you may still get an infection. Be alert to the signs that you might have an infection and check your body regularly for its signs, paying special attention to your eyes, nose, mouth, and genital and rectal areas. The symptoms of infection include:

  • Fever over 100 degrees F.

  • Chills.

  • Sweating.

  • Loose bowels

  • A burning feeling when you urinate.

  • A severe cough or sore throat.

  • Unusual vaginal discharge or itching.

  • Redness or swelling, especially around a wound, sore, pimple, or boil.

Report any signs of infection to your doctor right away.



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