Friends, Family and Public Places

Health Tip Sheet

Friends, Family and Public Places

Crowds and Public Places

Photo of a variety of social activities-baseball game, theater, restaurantWhen undergoing chemotherapy, if you feel up to it, it is generally fine to visit public places. Just remember your immune system is weaker than usual and it may be harder for your body to fight off infections. If you do go out, try to avoid situations where you might come into close contact with people who may be sick. For example, eating at a restaurant or going to a movie is OK, but you should try to avoid a situation where you are in a crowd. This is especially important:

  • Between 7 and 12 days after receiving each chemotherapy treatment —and possibly lasting up to one week— (sometimes called the nadir) when your immune system is likely to be at its weakest and you are at the greatest risk for picking up germs. Be sure to ask your doctor or nurse when your immune system is likely to be at its weakest.
  • During cold and flu season, when more people are sick.

To further protect yourself, you should wash your hands or use hand sanitizers when you return home to get rid of any germs you might have picked up.

Learn more about nadir

Spending Time With Friends and Family

Your friends and family are a big part of your support system, and spending time with them is important. Keep in mind that unless a friend or family member is sick or highly contagious, most doctors and nurses agree that the benefits of spending time with your friends and family outweigh the risks.

To help prevent you from picking up germs, you can ask friends and family to wash their hands when visiting you. You can also consider keeping hand sanitizer at home and asking family members and visitors to use it.

Helpful Web Sites and References

American Cancer Society. (2011). Infections in people with cancer. Retrieved January 22, 2011, from

Freifeld, A.G., Brown, A.E., Elting, L., (2004). National Comprehensive Cancer Network practice guidelines in oncology: fever and neutropenia - V.1.2004. Available at: Accessed June 9, 2005.

Hughes, W.T., Armstrong, D., Bodey, G.P., (2002). Guidelines for the use of antimicrobial agents in neutropenic patients with cancer. Clinical Infections Diseases, 34, 730–751.

Marrs, J.A. (2006). Care of patients with neutropenia. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 10(2), 164–166.

National Cancer Institute. (2008). Managing chemotherapy side effects. Retrieved May 3, 2011, from

Scott Hamilton CARES Initiative. (2005). Infection. Retrieved February 9, 2011, from

Education Materials

CDC created a variety of resources for patients and healthcare providers, including a quick reference sheet, fact sheets, posters, and videos.

"I never thought seriously about the risk of infection until I was hospitalized and unable to fight a fever. It’s so important to understand what steps you can take to help protect yourself."Donna Deegan, News AnchorBreast Cancer Survivor 

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