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Caring for Your Child During Treatment

Preparing the Home

The following changes to your home may make life easier and safer for you and your child:

  • Move comfortable, easy-to-wear clothing to the front of your child’s closet. If your child may lose his or her hair during treatment, find warm caps, hats and scarves to use to keep the head warm and protect the scalp from the sun.
  • Keep throw blankets and extra quilts in an accessible location. Children in cancer treatment may be more susceptible to cold.
  • Use nonslip bath mats, both in and outside the tub/shower.
  • Keep stairs and hallways well lit.
  • Get rid of slipper rugs that can bunch up and cause a tripping hazard.
  • Find a safe place to keep medications so that none of the children in your home will be able to get to them.
  • Buy disposable gloves for cleaning up vomit or other messes.
  • Use non-breakable dishes and cups.
  • Stock your pantry, fridge and freezer with healthy food choices.


 Read the PDF, Caring for Your Child During Treatment, for more information on cleaning the home and toys. 

 See Worksheet 11: Grocery List and Worksheet 12: Chore Chart  


Protecting a Weakened Immune System

Children in cancer treatment are at a higher risk for infection. The following tips can help you and your child avoid infections:

  • Wash hands well and often.
  • Avoid friends or family members who are sick.
  • Avoid crowds of people.
  • Wear a mask in crowds and emergency room waiting areas.
  • Ask the healthcare which vaccines and boosters your child needs.
    • An annual flu shot is recommended for all children older than 6 months, even children receiving cancer treatment. Your child should receive the flu shot, which is made from the dead virus. He or she must not get the nasal spray vaccine because the spray contains the live flu virus. The live virus can be dangerous for immunosuppressed patients. Everyone in your home and people who spend time with your child should also receive the flu shot, not the nasal spray vaccine.
  • If your child (or siblings) attends school or day care, ask teachers and staff members to alert you if your child may have been exposed to chicken pox, shingles, pink eye, strep throat, lice or other illnesses. If your child has been exposed to chicken pox or shingles, alert the healthcare team immediately.
  • Talk to your child’s teachers or school administrators about ways to reduce infection in the classroom, such as frequent handwashing, using gel or liquid hand sanitizers and wiping down desks and school supplies with disinfecting wipes.
  • Clean cuts and scrapes immediately.
  • Avoid activities that put your child at risk for cuts or other injuries.
  • Take appropriate precautions around pets and animals.
  • Practice good food safety. Remind your child not to share utensils, drinks or take bites from anyone else’s food.
  • Regularly disinfect frequently touched items in the home including remotes, tablets, phones, faucets, light switches, doorknobs and railings.
  • Clean your child’s toys properly. Favorite toys may need to be cleaned more often.
  • Do not undertake major home renovations during your child’s cancer treatment. Talk to your child’s healthcare team before any renovations are started.
  • Do not let your child be near freshly laid mulch or play in piles of leaves or hay and limit time around campfires.
  • Contact the healthcare team immediately if you notice any of the following signs and/or symptoms of infection:
    • A fever of 100.4°F or higher
    • Chills
    • Persistent coughing
    • Tenderness at a site prone to infection, such as the area around the anus or the nasal sinuses
    • Redness, swelling, tenderness or discharge from any cut, scrape or insertion site
    • A sore throat
    • Pain when urinating
    • Frequent diarrhea or loose bowel movements


Hygiene and Personal Care

Good hygiene and personal care help to lower the risk of infection in immunosuppressed children, such as those receiving cancer treatment.

Wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently. Your child should also wash his or her hands frequently, especially before eating, after the using the bathroom, after playing with other children or pets or playing outside. Encourage other people in your home and anybody else who interacts with your child to do the same. You can also use either liquid or gel hand sanitizer to keep hands clean.

Your child may also need to modify his or her hygiene habits. Depending on your child’s age and how well he or she is feeling, you either may or may not need to assist him or her with hygiene, or you may only need to help with certain tasks.

 Read the PDF, Caring for Your Child During Treatment, for guidelines for proper skin, nail, dental, and hair care for a child in treatment.



Good nutrition is important for all children. A child with a cancer diagnosis may have additional nutritional needs or challenges. Speak to your child’s healthcare team about any foods that should be avoided or any special precautions that should be taken. Some foods can interact with cancer treatments or make them less effective. Good nutrition during cancer treatment can help your child feel better, avoid treatment delays and recover faster.

A child’s nutritional needs depend on his or her age, sex, and health. A child who is receiving cancer treatment may need additional calories or protein. To get specific recommendations for your child’s nutritional needs, talk to your child’s healthcare team and ask for a referral to a registered dietitian with expertise in pediatric oncology nutrition.

  Schedule a nutrition consultation. Our registered dietitian has expertise in oncology nutrition and provides patients, parents and caregivers with free nutrition consultations by phone or email.


Food Safety

Cancer and cancer treatment weaken your child’s immune system. It is important to pay special attention to food safety guidelines to reduce your child’s risk of being exposed to potentially harmful bacteria from spoiled or undercooked foods.  For more, see Diet Guidelines for Immunosuppressed Patients.

 Read the PDF, Nutrition, for more information about nutrition, food safety guidelines, meal ideas and tips for grocery shopping.



Sleep is important part of healthy childhood development. Take steps to help your child get the recommended amount of sleep for his or her age group. Create a bedtime routine and provide a comfortable sleep environment. If you child wets the bed, use a plastic mattress cover and have extra sheets available for quick cleanup.

 Read the PDF, Caring for Your Child During Treatment, for more information about children and sleep.



Play is an important part of a child’s development. Children learn, explore and process their emotions through play. Play can also be a source of exercise and a way for your child to socialize with other children. Throughout treatment, allow and encourage your child to continue to play and to do any of the things he or she enjoys and can do.

Bear in mind, though, that during treatment, the ways in which your child plays may change or certain activities may need to be modified or avoided. Talk to members of the healthcare team about what precautions to take during playtime.

If your child is hospitalized for treatment, continue to offer opportunities for your child to play. Many children’s hospitals have a recreation or playroom with toys and activities for patients and their families.


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