Hemophilia and everyday health care

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Teens living with hemophilia learn the importance of eating well, good dental care and having all their vaccine shots up-to-date.

As a person with hemophilia, it is important to take care of yourself. This includes eating properly, taking care of your teeth and making sure your immunizations are up-to-date.

Eating well

A nutritious diet is an essential part of developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This is particularly true for active young people. Eating well and exercising regularly reduces your risk of obesity, diabetes, and other health complications. There are no special diet recommendations for people with hemophilia. Canada's food guide recommends:

To learn about healthy eating habits and for general information on nutrition, visit Canada’s food guide. Most food labels also have a nutrition facts table. The Health Canada website gives you tips on how to read Nutrition Fact Tables accurately.

Try to limit foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt.

Eat breakfast every morning to help control your hunger for the rest of the day.

Don’t forget your breakfast

Breakfast gives you the energy you need to get through the day. Think of your metabolism as a furnace and food as coal; you want to light up the furnace at the start of your day so that it can start to burn the coal and generate heat, a type of energy. To make sure it keeps burning, you replenish it throughout the day. Similarly, your metabolism burns food/calories to fuel your body for essential functions like breathing and exercising. Eating breakfast in the morning ignites your metabolism so it can start to burn food into energy. This way, you’ll be better able to burn the rest of your meals for energy throughout the day.

Eat frequent, small and healthy meals
To keep the furnace burning, you have to continually replenish it with coal throughout the day. Adding too little coal will cause the fire to burn out; adding too much will smother the fire and also burns it out. Likewise, your metabolism needs a constant supply of healthy food so it can steadily burn the food for fuel. Not eating for hours at a time slows your metabolism down so that the next time you eat your body stores energy instead of burning it.

Quick Tip!
Make sure you are drinking enough water. When you are well hydrated, you can give yourself infusions more easily because you can find your veins faster. You can also have your blood work done more quickly because your blood flows faster. When our bodies are not well hydrated, our blood becomes viscous (thick) and moves much more slowly.

Vitamins and supplements

If you follow a healthy and balanced diet, you don’t generally need extra vitamins or supplements. If you choose to take dietary supplements to increase muscle mass, like creatine, be sure to discuss this with your health-care provider. Excessive protein can be hard on your body and lead to long-term kidney problems. Ask a member of your comprehensive care team (CCT) before starting any nutritional supplements.

Take care of your teeth

Good dental care is important for people with hemophilia because it prevents gum bleeds that could require treatment. Taking care of your teeth can also reduce your chances of needing dental surgery.

There are a number of ways you can keep your teeth and gums healthy:

  • brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss
  • visit your dentist regularly
  • avoid acidic foods or those high in sugar to reduce enamel erosion and cavities.

Dental surgery and hemophilia

At some point in your life, you may need to undergo a dental procedure. If you do, make sure you:

  • Tell your dentist about your hemophilia.
  • Let your CCT know before the dental procedure.
  • Take factor before your procedure as your CCT advises.
  • Avoid pain medicines that increase bleeding, after the dental procedure (some of the common pain medicines, like aspirin and ibuprofen, make your platelets stop working and increase your risk of bleeding).
  • Eat soft food or drink liquids while your mouth heals to reduce bleeding.

Quick Tip!
Make sure you use a face scrub right before you shave. It helps prevent nasty razor burns by bringing your hair to the surface, making it easier to shave. It is also useful to use a lathering brush to spread the shaving cream evenly across your face.

Invest in a good after shave lotion. Some contain ingredients that help your cuts clot as well.

A SepticStick can help stop bleeding from minor cuts you may get when you shave. It will sting a little, but it is helpful in the long run. Using your spit to wipe the blood away will only make it worse, because your saliva has enzymes that break down blood clots.

Vaccinations: Not another needle!

Vaccinations or immunizations are medicines that are injected into your body to help protect against infections and diseases.

  • These injections are standard practice and are usually given during childhood.
  • There are certain vaccines that you will not receive until you are older.
  • You will take additional doses of certain vaccines as you get older, and keep up to date on new vaccines.
  • Vaccines are sometimes required when travelling to certain countries.
  • Vaccines are often given in school. Tell the nurse administering your vaccine about your hemophilia.

Talk about immunizations with your doctor to make sure you are doing everything you can to protect yourself. Whenever you receive a vaccine it is also important to make note of it in your immunization record, which is sometimes called your "yellow card". If you do not have an immunization card you can get one from any health clinic or your CCT.

Vaccinations and hemophilia

Getting a vaccine can pose some risk to people with hemophilia. A needle inserted into the skin or deeper into the muscle (intramuscular) can cause both external and internal bleeding. To avoid any unwanted side-effects, it is a good idea to:

  • Ask the nurse or doctor to use a small-bore (25-gauge) needle when injecting into the muscle (intramuscular injections).
  • Apply firm pressure to the site for at least ten minutes after your vaccination.
  • Check the area for swelling or bruising on the days following your shot. If you notice any swelling at the site of injection, contact your CCT immediately.
Last updated: March 13th 2019