Leukemia in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Leukemia is a type of cancer of the blood cells. The body makes too many white blood cells, and the cells do not act normally. Over time they crowd out the normal blood cells. There are many different kinds of leukemia. The type of treatment your child receives depends on the type of leukemia he or she has.

Leukemia is usually treated with medicines called chemotherapy. Your child may also need radiation treatments or a procedure called a bone marrow transplant. Your doctor will talk to you about what type of leukemia your child has and what kinds of treatment may be best for him or her.

When you find out that your child has cancer, you and your child may feel many emotions and may need some help coping. Seek out family, friends, and counsellors for support. You also can do things at home to make you and your child feel better while he or she goes through treatment. Call the Canadian Cancer Society (1-888-939-3333) or visit its website at www.cancer.ca for more information.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine. Your child may get medicine for nausea and vomiting if he or she has these side effects.
  • Make sure your child eats healthy food. If your child does not feel like eating, give him or her food that has protein and extra calories to keep up strength and prevent weight loss. Have your child drink liquid meal replacements for extra calories and protein. Have your child try to eat his or her main meal early.
  • Make sure your child gets some physical activity every day, but do not let him or her get too tired. Encourage your child to do hobbies he or she enjoys as energy allows.
  • Help your child control stress and learn relaxation techniques.
    • Have your child share his or her feelings. Stress and tension affect our emotions. When your child expresses feelings to others, he or she may be able to understand and cope with them.
    • Consider joining a support group with your child. Talking about a problem with other people with similar problems is a good way to reduce tension and stress.
    • Tell your child it is okay to cry. Crying also can relieve tension. It is part of the emotional healing process.
    • Encourage your child to express himself or herself through art. Your child might try writing, crafts, dance, or art to relieve stress. Some dance, writing, or art groups may be available just for children who have cancer.
    • Make sure your child gets enough sleep, eats a healthy diet, and takes time to do things he or she enjoys. This can contribute to an overall feeling of balance in your child's life and can help reduce stress.
    • Get help if you or your child needs it. Discuss your concerns with your doctor or counsellor.
  • If your child is vomiting or has diarrhea:
    • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids (enough so that the urine is light yellow or clear like water) to prevent dehydration. Choose water and other caffeine-free clear liquids until your child feels better.
    • When your child is feeling better, have him or her eat clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Other good choices include dry toast, crackers, cooked cereal, and gelatin dessert, such as Jell-O.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child coughs up blood.
  • Your child vomits blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your child passes maroon or very bloody stools.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has severe pain.
  • Your child is dizzy or light-headed or feels like he or she may faint.
  • Your child is sick to his or her stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
  • Your child has any unusual bleeding, such as:
    • Blood spots under the skin.
    • A nosebleed that does not stop.
    • Bleeding gums when brushing teeth.
    • Blood in the urine.
    • Vaginal bleeding.
  • Your child's stools are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.
  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from a bruise.
    • Pus draining from a wound.
    • A fever or chills.
    • Burning when he or she urinates.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child coughs up yellow or green mucus.
  • Your child has any new symptoms, such as new pain.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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