Looking after yourself when you have liver disease

People with liver disease are more vulnerable to infections, and if they do get an illness, are more likely to become severely ill. As a result, it is really important to keep up-to-date with vaccinations. As with medications, it is important to make the doctor or nurse aware of your liver condition and tell them if there have been any changes in your condition, before having treatment.

  • Flu: visit your GP for a flu jab every autumn.
  • Pneumococcal infection: get a jab to protect against this major cause of chest infection, when you are diagnosed with liver disease and then every 10 years.
  • Hepatitis A and B: these infections are much more serious in people who already have another liver disease, so visit your GP for the full course and the booster when due.
  • If you are travelling abroad it is important to make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date.
  • If you are immunosuppressed, for example due to taking steroids for autoimmune hepatitis or following a liver transplant, you should not have ‘live’ vaccines such as MMR, TB, yellow fever and oral typhoid vaccine. In these circumstances speak to your doctor about which vaccines your close contacts should have.

There are also a number of fairly simple precautions you can take to avoid infection.

  • Avoid close contact with adults and children carrying infections – from the common cold to chicken pox.
  • Avoid inhaling dust particles or smoke.
  • Keep good standards of hygiene – for example, washing your hands after going to the toilet or changing a baby’s nappy.
  • Brush your teeth after every meal and floss daily.
  • Visit the dentist every 6 months.
  • Keep toenails and fingernails clean and trimmed.
  • Thoroughly clean all cuts and grazes before applying a clean, dry dressing or plaster, and keep an eye on them to make sure they are healing.
  • Do not clean out the cat litter or bird cages, or go near animal excrement, without gloves.
  • For women, use only small tampons, change frequently and do not use overnight.