If your child’s immune system is weak because of disease or treatment, you will need to take care to prevent infection at home. Your child should avoid visitors who might be ill. During these times, your child could develop severe pneumonia from breathing airborne fungus.
Aspergillus is a fungus that is always present in the air we breathe. It can cause sinus infections and pneumonia in patients with weak immune systems. The pneumonia caused by Aspergillus is serious, and current treatments do not work as well as we would like.
At St. Jude, we combine high-efficiency air filters and frequent cleaning to keep the amount of fungus in the hospital air low. Decreasing Aspergillus in the air reduces your child’s risk for infection. The air quality inside patient care areas is tested regularly. It has remained excellent over many years.
These are things you can do at home to help protect your child from infection:
Prevent the build-up of dust on surfaces. Aspergillus is commonly found in dust. When dusting, try to prevent the dust from flying in the air. For cleaning most surfaces, use a cloth dampened with a disinfectant such as Lysol®. On wood surfaces, a cloth sprayed with a product like Endust® or Pledge® will help prevent dust from flying into the air.
Reduce your child’s exposure to dust. Try to avoid having your child exposed to dust in the air as you are cleaning by removing him from the area being cleaned.
Maintain a clean air conditioner/furnace filter. Inspect your air filter at least one (1) time each month. When it is dirty, replace it.
Provide an air cleaner. You may want to use a room air cleaner that contains a high-efficiency particulate air filter to help clean the air in the room where your child spends the most time. You can buy one of these portable air cleaners at most department and discount stores.
Keep the carpet clean. Vacuum often. Vacuum cleaners that contain high efficiency filters work best. You might want to remove carpet that has become badly soiled.
Remove visible mold. Mold (or “mildew”) that forms on shower walls, shower curtains, and bathtub grout should be removed promptly.
Avoid dusty areas outdoors. Avoid construction sites and dirt or gravel roads because of airborne dust that contains Aspergillus.
Wear a mask. St. Jude can provide masks that, when worn properly, are very effective in filtering Aspergillus out of the air. The doctor or nurse will tell you if your child should wear the mask and give you a handout that shows how to use it.
If you have any questions about Aspergillus infection, please ask your doctor or nurse.