being exposed to the risk of infection

I've been off work almost since diagnosis (grief, stress, tiredness). When I saw a young GP (once) he told me just to forget about having CLL. My job is VERY stressful but the main thing that worries me is that, being a teacher, on returning to work, I will be exposed to the germs of around 100 or so pupils in my classroom over a day. I know my immune system will become increasingly compromised, but it is very good just now (eg hubby been unable to give me his last two colds, one of which was really bad and persistent). BUT, if I'm exposed to a lot of potential infections, won't my immune system produce more lymphocites to defend me and won't these include the cancerous ones which, besides being ineffective for purpose, won't die? Won't this encourage the decline of my health more quickly? I'd hate to think I would be helping the bad b lymphocites to take over, sooner than they might otherwise. What do you think?

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17 Replies

  • You are at a higher risk of infection being around children, so if you start to have repeated illness have your immnoglobulin levels checked.

    The old idea that CLL lymphocytes don't die was proven incorrect in 2007...they die but perhaps just a bit slower. See the watershed study by Nicholas Chiorazzi.

    Get regular blood tests and monitor your absolute lymphocyte count (ALC) . There is no need for much concern about your immune system prior to CLL progressing rapidly and you start to experience other side effects.

    After most treatment, the immune system is much more affected and compromised... but it varies with each individual...

    Everything you do impacts your health, eat well, exercise, reduce stress, enjoy will be fine...


  • Thank you so much for your prompt and very informative reply. This is a great website. Your reply has really helped me. Yes, my consultant did say that these cells do die, just not so quickly. Thank you for giving me the source of this research finding. My brain is usually fairly sharp but - it must be psychological - as regards my CLL, I have difficulty in taking things in.

  • Hi - I am a teacher too and have also worried about being sneezed over and coughed over by young people who are unaware of the risk they present to me. However, touch wood (and all that), I fair relitively well and have far fewer sick days than other colleagues who, as far as I am aware, have no underlying health issues. For me the joy and fun that I get from spending time with young people lifts my spirit and helps me be well. I am sorry that the thought of returning to work is causing you more stress. Since my diagnosis, I have looked after myself more and am not so hard on myself; I know that if I feel unwell, I will not go into work rather than keep pushing myself as I did in the past. This works for me as it reduces the feeling of being run down and on the back foot, both of which make our demanding job even harder. I hope that things return to something that resembles normality soon. Take care.


  • Thank you. I think all of my Department suffer from stress - and it's rarely because of the kids! I don't want to expose myself to the winter flu and other nasty seasonal bugs. I am missing teaching the pupils and I love my subject. It was my intention to retire in August 2013 (I think!). I may return to work after the worst of the seasonal bugs. In a few weeks time, I'll be 'further down the line' in reaching an equilibrium re my changed circumstances. My close friends are working during the day and, as they are teachers, they are very tired in the evenings. Still, uppermost in my mind is the thought that I don't want to 'excite my lymphocites' unnecessarily! Thanks for your reply.

    Kind regards


  • I was only diagnosed yesterday but, quite coincidentally, I am currently involved in a study to test getting messages to the public re hand-washing. Apparently some germs and viruses can stay on hard surfaces for up to eight hours (think supermarket trolleys, door handles even money or credit cards) so you should wash your hands far more often than you think you should! As they suggest, I have started washing my hands far more often particularly at times such as coming into my home or shopping and I keep hand gel in my car and handbag

  • Hi Kanga

    Welcome, awareness was the first message i was given by the community when diagnosed. The opinion was start incorporating good hygiene into your routine as it can only be a good thing. Sorry to hear of your diagnosis I am sure others will find you when they see your post at the bottom of the thread.


  • Hi, thank you for the welcome. Apparently I have had CLL for about 8 years but it was only diagnosed yesterday - hopefully that means it's a mild form? Apart from the results of the blood test I am perfectly well. Am finding your site incredibly helpful and am grateful that there is such a good source of information available in one place

  • Here's a little information to help find your way around: Within the CLL Support Association blog there is a list of links to;Sources of CLL information and support..

    Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research published a new patient information booklet several months ago. Which is well written and explains things in a patient friendly manner, a good place to start your reading about CLL. Here is the link to the PDF download:


    you can also download a booklet to aid you with living on Watch and Wait: Monitoring While Treatment Is Not Necessary.


    Here is the link to their new CLL information section, which also provided access to recent audio visual recordings of talks from LLR's CLL open day last month.



  • Thank you very much

  • I was told that a lot of colds and flu are transmitted via direct contact (rather than being sneezed over) and that ordinary hand washing with soap and water before eating and when returning home can make a big difference to how many illnesses you pick up.

    Last year I was invited to take part in a observational study to prove that this really works. It certainly makes a lot of sense.

  • Yes, although these viruses are airborne, they are contageous as well as infectious. You are right to point out the great importance of washing hands frequently. I expect that many bugs live for several hours on objects we may touch which have been contaminated by someone else (eg the kids at school)!

    Thank you.

  • And no nose picking or nail biting either :-)

  • Well, I'm NOT going to comment on that one, am I? (Except to say,I would NEVER do such things, teh hee!)

  • Also don't forget the Flu jab...

    While the flu jab does not work quite as well if you have CLL, it does help ..

    Then there is the ' Herd ' way of thinking, in that if most of the people around you have also had THIER flu jab, then that reduces the risks for yourself. So encourage others you live with to have their flu injections and to also wash hands and use lots of kleenex..

  • Kwenda, your reply has made me smile because it reminded me of how obsessional I am in class that the kids don't sneeze over desks, fellow-pupils - and me! 'Coughs and sneezes spread diseases; trap your germs with a handkerchief' = slogan that was on television many many years ago and for which I am known for oft repeating at school. I always have a big box of paper tissues on my desk, antiseptic lotion, elastoplast... And I send pupils to wash their hands if they have been doing anything which is unhygienic. My mother taught me the importance of frequent hand-washing and I've instilled that in my own three (grown up and flown) children.

    Hubby and I have had flu jabs (he as my 'carer'). That's an interesting point about having others who are close to you have the jag too. I'm going to pursue that one!

    Thank you.

  • I was diagnosed yesterday and one of the things my specialist emphasised was that I should have the flu jab and pneumonia jab, as I've already had them I felt quite pleased with myself. I know that doctors routinely vaccinate certain age-groups etc and your GP will be able to vaccinate you if you have CLL

  • Hi - I see you have had a lot of helpful answers but I would just add one more response which you may or may not find helpful. I work as a nurse in a hospital - I am probably exposed to all manner of infections/eg MRSA/C.DIFF/any number of other things in a very busy working environment all day every day. I have been very very lucky this year and have managed only one day off sick and I do really think this is because I am always washing my hands at work and also continually using the anti-bacterial hand gel when I walk around the unit - at the door of the ward and when leaving the ward. Also after getting out of the lifts etc. I do realise that this is not the same as having children sneezing all over you! Hope this helps. Best wishes.

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