Skin and nail problems

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Minor skin problems are frequent while on chemotherapy. The most common problems are rashes, redness, itching, peeling, dry skin, and acne. The following are suggestions for preventing and treating skin problems:

• Avoid hot showers or baths, as these can dry the skin.

• Use moisturizing soap such as Basic or Avena.

• Apply a water-based moisturizer after bathing.

• Avoid scratchy materials such as wool. Your child may feel more comfortable in loose, cotton clothing.

• Have your child use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least SPF 30. This is especially important for areas that have been irradiated.

• If your child is bald, and especially if she has had cranial radiation, insist on head coverings or sunscreen every time she goes outdoors.

• Buy your child lip gloss with sunscreen.

Matthew's lips would get very dry and eventually start to peel. It irritated him, and he developed a habit of biting on his lips. To minimize the problem I learned that wiping a cool, wet cloth over his mouth many times a day worked well. I would then apply a light coating of Vaseline to his lips to keep them moist.

• Rubbing cornstarch on itchy skin is often soothing.

If your child has chemotherapy drugs injected into the veins (rather than a central catheter), you may notice a darkening along the vein. This will fade after chemotherapy ends. However, skin and underlying tissues can be damaged or destroyed by drugs that leak out of a vein. If your child feels a stinging or burning sensation or if you notice swelling at the IV site, call a nurse immediately.

Call the doctor anytime your child gets a severe rash or is very itchy. Scratching rashes can cause infections, so you need to get medications to control the itching.

Chemotherapy affects the growing portion of nails located under the cuticle. After chemotherapy, you may notice a white band or ridge across the nail as it grows out. These brittle bands are sometimes elevated and feel bumpy. As the white ridge grows out toward the end of the finger, the nail may break. Keeping your childs fingernails trimmed can help prevent breakage.

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