Medical Products

Essentials for On-The-Go

When you have a child with cancer, life is lived hour by hour. Anything can happen at any given moment, so you want to make sure you are as prepared as possible to handle the situation at hand and ensure the best outcome.

One of the things that I highly recommend is to stay organized at all times, beginning with having a bag (a backpack would be ideal to avoid the strain of shoulder or handbags) to carry essential items on-the-go.

  1. Medications: make sure you carry all medications with you at all times (including scheduled routine medications and PRN-those to be taken as needed). You never know if you will find yourself in a situation where you will require those medications or be far from home. Also, set a routine of checking when medications are starting to run low and need a refill. Make sure to always have at least 3-5 days worth of medications at all times. *If you are looking for a pain relief alternative, CBD has worked great for us! Life Element’s CBD Pain & Ache Relief Stick has been great to take on-the-go!
  2. Syringe: always a great idea to carry a syringe for oral liquid medication and one with a needle if your child has any medications that need to be delivered by injection. (recommend carrying two of each item needed in case one fails to work).
  3. Pill cutter and/or pill crusher: never resort to cutting medication with a knife or scissors. It can cause you to split them unevenly, resulting in two pieces with very different dosages, which can be dangerous. Also, it is okay to store the other half of the pill in its medication container but avoid wanting to split all of the tablets at once for convenience. That will help keep the drugs from deteriorating due to exposure to air. (There are some medications that should never be split or crushed, please consult with the pharmacist if you are not sure.)
  4. Emesis bag: You will want to make sure to have at least two of these on hand with you at all times! In addition to carrying some in your essentials bag, make sure to keep on in the car within reach of your child (backseat pocket) and at home in areas where your child frequents (especially next to their bed at night). As you are probably already aware, vomit will happen and at any given time! These will be your best friend to avoid additional cleaning and laundry. It is also the best way to discard the bodily fluids, since you can tie it in a secure knot and dispose. (Tip: rinse your child’s mouth after vomiting.)
  5. Thermometer: a fever can come on at any given time, so you will want to make sure to be able to check their temperature especially while on the road. Every hospital has a different protocol on how to handle fevers for pediatric oncology patients but the most common standard is fever of 101°F one time or 100.4°F taken on two occasions at least one hour apart, you will want to arrive at the Emergency Department within an hour (or Infusion Center during the day if that is your hospital’s guidelines) to have blood cultures drawn and started on antibiotics if needed. Recommend always having an extra set of batteries stored with the thermometer and additional disposable probe covers. (Tip: Do not give acetaminophen/Tylenol® for your child’s fever unless your oncologist/or the oncologist on-call directs you to.)
  6. Pulse-oximeter: this has been a vital tool for me personally as a nurse to be able to monitor my son’s heart rate and oxygen levels. Some medications and secondary conditions related to cancer treatment can cause changes in heart rate, which you will want to monitor outside of the hospital setting. For myself, the pulse-ox has come in handy often when monitoring if my son has been anemic or not feeling well and perhaps about to spike a fever to see if his heart rate is increasing. You will want to check with your child’s pediatrician what are considered to be normal parameters for your child.
  7. Ice pack/ Heat pack: disposable ones are great for on the go. Ice packs come in handy as a cooling measure when your child has a fever, to help reduce an inflammation or ease pain (use with caution to never place directly over the skin or leave on for longer than 15 minutes). Heat packs are useful for easing pain as well, just take extra precaution with use on area that has received radiation treatment or an area that is red, raw, tender, or swollen.
  8. Face masks: you will want to take extra infection control precautions during chemotherapy and/or stem cell treatment, especially during the times that your child is neutropenic. An abnormal ANC (absolute neutrophil count) is fewer than 1,500 (cells per mm3). The risk of getting a serious infection gets higher as the ANC gets lower, especially as it gets lower than 500. My favorite reusable face mask with a filter is the Vogmask. My favorite washable and reusable face mask is the Germ Freak mask made by Dena Tyson which you can find on Etsy.
  9. Hand sanitizer spray/ gel: you will want to make sure to have some on hand for when there is not a sink available; washing hands with soap and water will always be the better option. Avoid any with fragrance (Unless verified by the Environmental Working Group as safe), that contain triclosan or are labeled as “antimicrobial.”
  10. Hand sanitizing wipes: personally I like hand wipes better than sprays or gels because I feel it does a better job, is less messy and it is also useful for wiping down surfaces when there are not disinfecting wipes available.
  11. Body/baby wipes: our children’s skin becomes so sensitive after radiation and/or chemotherapy, you want to prevent irritating their skin more using just traditional toilet paper. This is also a more hygienic option.
  12. Facial tissues: these come in handy for several reasons and will be utilized often. Avoid using the body/baby wipes on face and mucus membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) as you do not want to run the risk of cross contaminating feces and causing an infection.
  13. Water bottle: staying hydrated will be of upmost importance throughout treatment. Recommend using a reusable, stainless steel and insulated bottle to keep water cold.
  14. Snacks: you never know how long you will be out on the road, at an appointment or being admitted to the hospital. Always best to keep snacks on hand that your child will like. I personally like these reusable snack bags.
  15. Wound care: because accidents can happen at any time and you want to be prepared, it is a good idea to have a small first aid kit or wound care kit put together. Some basic necessities are bandages (I personally love these non-toxic, natural PATCH strips) sterile gauze and a pair of gloves (which you will want to keep clean in a bag, gloves will also come in handy if you have to give an injection). If possible wash the wound right away with soap and water, pat dry with sterile gauze and cover with bandage.
  16. Mouth care: oral hygiene is very important in preventing infections. Carry a soft toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash (will come in handy after vomiting episodes). Lip balm is essential to keep lips moisturized.
  17. Lotion: with repeated hand washing your skin and your child’s is bound to start to get dry (theirs most especially due to their skin becoming sensitive and fragile during treatment). You will want to make sure to keep hands and skin in general moisturized to keep it from cracking which can allow for opportunistic infections. Sunscreen is also important!
  18. Port-a-cath necessities: dressing for EMLA cream (Tegaderm seems to be the most popular occlusive dressing used for this, which is latex free but ensure your child does not have skin sensitivity to it).
  19. Central-line necessities: central line dressing change kit (this should be something that is supplied to you)
  20. Disinfection caps: to protect the port connectors on port-a-cath and central lines from bloodstream infections
  21. Feeding tube necessities: extra feeding tube kit, syringe, drainage pads (for GT/JT), supplies to check for proper placement
  22. Anti-nausea essentials: peppermint essential oil, peppermint mints or hard candy, peppermint gum, ginger water in an insulated container or ginger chews are all great non-pharmaceutical ways to dealing it nausea.
  23. Medical records: you will want to have copies of vital medical records with you at all times, including a hospital pass which will come in handy when checking in to the Emergency Department (most oncology units will give patients a “hospital passport” indicating what the child’s diagnosis is, their medical record number, any known allergies, what type of port/central line they have and size of needle used to access port, as well as the most recent medications they have taken. (If this is something that is not given to you, you will want to create a sheet with this information to have on hand, ideally laminated). When a child is seen in the ED (even in your home hospital) they sometimes do not have access to all of the inpatient records or if you happen to have to go to a different hospital, you will want to be able to give the healthcare staff the most accurate background of your child’s treatment, etc. Staying organized throughout the entire treatment will be one of the most important tasks you will want to do! We are all human, so there is potential for error at any time.
  24. Clothes: you will want to have an extra set of clothes and a bag to put any soiled clothes, I like this waterproof reusable bag. A small hand towel to clean up body or messes will come in handy.
  25. Activities: because there might be a lot of downtime while waiting in between appointments or at the hospital, it is always good to have activities on hand (i.e. card games, reading books, coloring books/crayons, puzzles). Or if your child is school aged it would be wise to carry their homework with you.
  26. Charger: charger for cell phone and/or electronics, or extra battery pack in case there are no outlets available.
  27. Cash: always a good idea to have some cash and loose change on you for parking, vending machines and food (if admitted to the hospital, sometimes they have parent meal trays for a discounted price but accept cash only).

I have created a list of recommendations on Amazon for some of these essential items for you here.

You can download a copy of this page below