Respiratory Infection Prevention for Laryngectomees

By: Itzhak Brook, M.D. MSc., HNCA Board Member, HNCA Ambassador, Throat Cancer Survivor and Laryngectomee

Laryngectomees are more susceptible to respiratory infection because the air they inhale is not filtered by passing through the nose. Consequently, they are at increased risk of inhaling respiratory pathogens (viruses, bacteria, and fungi) directly into their lungs. Therefore, laryngectomees have to be vigilant and protect themselves from all respiratory pathogens during the influenza season and other viral epidemics.

Respiratory pathogens are most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:

  • The air by coughing and sneezing and rarely, fecal contamination
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the pathogen on it, then touching the stoma, mouth, nose, or eyes before washing hands.

Laryngectomees can protect themselves by getting vaccinated (when a vaccine is available) and:

  • Wearing HME 24/7 especially when being around other people. HME with greater filtering ability would work better in reducing the risk of inhaling the virus ( i.e., Provox Micron TM, Atos Medical’s XtraMoist).
  • Wearing a surgical mask over the stoma
  • Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. This especially important before managing their stoma, and touching their HME when speaking using tracheoesophageal speech.
  • Avoid touching the stoma, HME, eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoiding close contact with sick people.
  • Cleaning and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

A surgical mask with four strings can be modified to fit over the stoma. One of the strings can be extended with extra string; and the lower pair of strings can be tied behind the back.

 

 

 


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We don't know what the future holds. Let's work together to drum out head and neck cancer and take advantage of the free oral, head and neck cancer screenings during OHANCAW®.Rikki Rockett
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