Protecting caregivers from drug hazards


The staff at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital reviews all patient care policies on a regular basis. During a recent review of the policy for giving chemotherapy (cancer-fighting drugs), the staff found areas where we can improve the way we protect you and all caregivers.

Chemotherapy and some other drugs can be a health hazard to caregivers who often work with the patients receiving these medicines. The drugs can sometimes irritate the skin or cause other side effects if the medicine soaks into the skin or gets into the eyes. For this reason, you and St. Jude staff members must follow important safety precautions each time your child receives these drugs.

Safety during chemo

The staff members who give your child chemo will wear gloves and gowns. They might wear face shields or goggles if there is a risk of splashing. Splashing sometimes occurs when giving chemo through an NG tube or when giving chemo by mouth to patients who do not want to take it. The staff also might ask you to wear gloves during the time your child receives these medicines.

Please tell the staff right away if you see one of these medicines spilled or if the medicine leaks out from any equipment. Do not try to clean up a spill yourself.

When your child is receiving chemo, you will see a yellow sticker on the door that says “Chemotherapy Precautions.” The sticker will include start and stop times for chemo safety precautions.

Safety after chemo

For 48 hours after your child receives chemo, all body fluids can contain these drugs. During this time, all caregivers must follow safety precautions. A nurse will place a yellow armband on your child when he starts receiving chemo or another drug that could pose a hazard to caregivers. The nurse will write a dates and times on the armband to remind everyone of when the 48-hour precautions will begin and when they will end.

During that 48-hour period, the staff will wear gloves and gowns when handling your child’s vomit, blood, urine, and bowel movements, including diapers. They might wear face shields or goggles if there is a risk of splashing. If your child is at the hospital as an inpatient, the nursing staff will dispose of any body fluids that need to be flushed. The staff also will change diapers and soiled linens. If your child wears diapers, please tell the nursing staff when your child’s diaper needs to be changed. If you decide to change your child’s diaper, you should wear gloves.

During this time, please do not put your child’s body fluids in the regular trash. The staff will place these fluids in chemo hazard bags and dispose of the bags in a hazardous drug waste container. If your child uses the toilet during this time, please ask the staff to flush the toilet.  

If your child is at the hospital as an outpatient, you should wear gloves if you handle your child’s vomit, blood, urine, or bowel movements, including diapers.

Safety away from the hospital

After you leave the hospital, you need to follow these safety guidelines until the 48-hour precaution period has ended:

  • Wear gloves when handling your child’s body fluids, soiled linens, or diapers.
  • Dispose of diapers in your regular trash but try to limit your exposure to the diapers.
  • Put the toilet lid down when flushing the toilet at home and in hospital housing.
  • If any of your child’s body fluids touch your skin during clean up or diaper changes, wash the skin well with soap and water.
  • If any of your child’s body fluids get in your eyes, flush with water for 15 minutes while holding the eyelid open. Then, call your personal doctor and explain what has happened.

For more details about giving chemo at home, refer to “Do You Know…Chemotherapy by Mouth at Home.”


If you have questions or concerns about your safety or the safety of your child during chemo treatments, please talk to a St. Jude doctor or nurse. If you have concerns after clinic hours, call the St. Jude operator at 595-3300, and ask for the nursing coordinator. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0. When the operator answers, ask for the nursing coordinator.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).