Gardening and Housekeeping

Health Tip Sheet

Gardening and Housekeeping


Man working in his gardenDuring your nadir, the period of time beginning 7–12 days after you finish each chemotherapy dose—and possibly lasting up to one week—is when you may be at the greatest risk for infection. During this time you should consider avoiding gardening. At other times during your cancer treatment, gardening is a good way to get outside for some fresh air. Many people find gardening relaxing and enjoyable.

Here are a few things you should consider when gardening:

  • Wearing gardening gloves can protect your hands and help to avoid cuts and scrapes. Be especially careful around roses or other plants with sharp thorns. Your skin is your first defense against infection, and any breaks in the skin create an opportunity for germs to enter your body.
  • Wearing gardening gloves also protects your hands from direct contact with soil, which can contain bacteria and mold. After gardening, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water.

Learn more about nadir

Housekeeping and Disinfecting

Woman cleaning her kitchen with a rag and disinfectant sprayKeeping up with your household chores is always a challenge. It can be even harder when you are not feeling well. If possible, don’t do household chores if you don’t feel well. It is better to rest if you are tired or not feeling well, as this will help your body recover from chemotherapy. If you do want to do housekeeping, there are a couple of easy tips you can follow to keep your house clean and lower your chance of picking up germs.

You can use disinfectants, such as sprays and wipes, to kill germs on the following places:

  • Kitchen counter tops and floors, especially before and after food preparation
  • Refrigerator door handles
  • Telephones
  • Door knobs and handles
  • Bathroom counter tops and floors

Helpful Web Sites and References

American Cancer Society. (2003). Patient guidelines to help prevent fever and infections. Retrieved November 18, 2009, from

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

Schlesinger, A., Paul, M., Gafter-Guili, A., Rubinovitch, B., & Leibovici, L. (2009). Infection control interventions for cancer patients after chemotherapy: A systematic review and metaanalysis. Lancet Infectious Disease, 10(2), 9, 97–107.

Kagan, L. J., Aiello, A. E., & Larson, E. (2002, August). The role of the home environment in the transmission of infectious diseases. Journal of Community Health, 27(4), 247–267.



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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