Infections After Lung Transplant Surgery

Because the immunosuppressant medications you take to prevent rejection interfere with your natural immunity, you become more susceptible to infections after your transplant. To combat this, we also prescribe antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal medications to prevent you from contracting the more harmful infections.

Common symptoms of infection include:

  • Fever, chills, sweats
  • Sore throat
  • Productive cough
  • Increased fatigue
  • Swelling, pain or redness around incision or drains
  • New drainage from the incisions
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your transplant team or primary care physician at once.

If You Develop an Infection

When you get colds or the flu, you may take over-the-counter preparations such as Sudafed® or Dimetapp®. Avoid cold remedies that contain aspirin, Tylenol®, or high quantities of alcohol. (You may take aspirin or Tylenol® for headache or to reduce fever.) If you develop a cough, you may take cough syrups such as Robitussin®, but if your cough becomes productive (bringing up phlegm or mucous) and you are running a fever, call your transplant team. If your local doctor prescribes an antibiotic, please call the transplant team to verify that it will not interfere with the medications you routinely take.

If you are caring for a child on immunosuppressant medication, please check with your pediatrician before administering any medications.

How to Protect Yourself from Infection after Lung Transplantation

Preventing infection is mostly common sense. Protect yourself by following these simple guidelines:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often to remove bacteria and viruses; keep your hands away from your face and mouth. You should wash your hands when you come in from outdoors, before you pre-pare food, before you eat, after working with papers, after cleaning, and after using the bathroom.
  • When you cough or sneeze, use tissues, dispose of them immediately, and wash your hands.
  • If someone you know has a cold or the flu, avoid close contact. Don't hesitate to tell your friends about your special situation and ask that they postpone visiting when they are ill.
  • Shower instead of bathe, and practice good personal hygiene.
  • Maintain a well-balanced diet. Wash before and after handling food. You can even use a small amount of soap when cleaning fruits and vegetables. Avoid raw eggs, raw shellfish, and raw meats; they can harbor bacteria. Keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold. Don't eat foods whose freshness is in question.
  • It's fine to live with pets, but you must be able to delegate cleaning the birdcage, changing the cat's litter, and cleaning up after the dog to someone else.
  • Avoid stagnant water because it too harbors bacteria. This includes denture cups, flower vases, soap dishes, and fresh water ponds.
  • Swimming in chlorinated pools is permitted.
  • No gardening should be done.
  • Wear a respiratory mask in crowded public areas and hospitals.