Patients who are clearly immune compromised (eg, receiving chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy, or who have advanced disease) need to be very careful of being in the presence of individuals who are not vaccinated for COVID19. And remember, if someone has contracted COVID-19 in the past, that doesn’t protect them from getting the virus again and spreading it to others. Ideally, our patients with cancer should be in the company of family and friends who HAVE been fully vaccinated. Our patients themselves should be fully vaccinated and should have received their booster as well. This gives our patients the best opportunity for protection against individuals who may pass the virus to them. If there will be family or friends who are not vaccinated, then these individuals should do the right thing and test negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours of visiting the patient. Some pharmacy chain stores have run low on their supplies of test kits, but amazon.com still has lots of them. Individuals should be advised to purchase these test kits now so they have them for the holidays—starting with Thanksgiving—and continuing through New Year’s Day. They average $24 for a kit that contains 2 tests with easy-to-follow instructions and provide results in just 20 minutes. In fact, testing should be done for visitors of all ages and not reserved just for adults who are unvaccinated.
Promote lots of hand washing and encourage folks to get their flu shots, too. It has been determined to be fine to get both the flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time, just using different arms.
At this time of year, the temperatures drop in many geographic areas, so patients should be bundled up with warm hats and gloves when outdoors. This is especially important for those who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy. We lose 80% of our body heat from the top of our head.
If someone has a cold or flu, they should not be around a cancer patient who is actively receiving treatment or who has advanced disease and is receiving palliative treatment. This is a time to use Zoom, Facetime, or Skype instead of face-to-face contact.
Take lots of photos! Holidays come and go, but photos of family and friends together last forever. Though the visiting time may even be briefer than usual, taking photos is a great way to remember the holidays.
Safety first—so there can be many more happy holidays in the years to come.