Hazardous Drug Precautions During Chemotherapy

What are hazardous drugs?

Hazardous drugs are given to patients to kill cancer cells or to keep these cells from growing.

Hazardous drugs may also damage normal cells. Hazardous drugs are those that can cause serious illness or injury to humans. They may cause damage to DNA, reproductive organs and a developing fetus.

It is important to avoid accidental contact with hazardous drugs.

How will I know if my child’s medication is a hazardous drug?

The Pharmacy places a “Hazardous Drug” label on these medications. Your child’s nurse will also be able to tell you this information.

What will staff be wearing?

Staff will wear gloves and disposable gowns when giving your child the hazardous drugs. They will also be wearing these items to dispose of urine. If they think there is chance for splashing or spraying, they will also wear eye protection.

What precautions do I need to take?

You should always wear gloves when handling hazardous drugs and other equipment such as tubing and absorbent pads. These drugs are also excreted in the urine and stool for up to 48 hours, so you should also wear gloves when handling diapers or urinals. Staff will place a sign on your child’s door stating when the 48 hours begins and ends. Wash your hands well with soap and water immediately after handling these items.

Can I crush tablets or open capsules if my child is having a difficult time swallowing?

Many hazardous drugs are also available as a liquid, so please talk to your child’s healthcare provider if you have concerns about your child swallowing tablets or capsules. Crushing tablets and opening capsules increases your risk of exposure to the drug. It can also reduce the dose of medication. If you must crush a tablet or open a capsule, it is recommended that you wear gloves, add food to the medication (instead of pouring the medication into food) and thoroughly wash your hands and any utensils you used.

What should I do if there is a spill or leak of hazardous drugs on myself or my child?

If you spill any liquids on your skin, wash the area well with soap and water and tell your child’s nurse. If you notice a spill or leak while your child is receiving a hazardous drug, tell your nurse immediately.

What if I am pregnant? Can I handle hazardous drugs?

You should discuss this issue with your OB/GYN before handling these drugs.



Written 3/2004

Reviewed 5/07

Revised 7/09, 3/10, 3/11, 10/14

©The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia 2014. Not to be copied or distributed without permission. All rights reserved.

Patient family education materials provide educational information to help individuals and families. You should not rely on this information as professional medical advice or to replace any relationship with your physician or healthcare provider. 

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