Does Honey Work for Chemo Mouth Sores?
Any patient who has experienced mouth sores during chemo treatment know how debilitating they can be. Not only are they painful, but these lesions can make it difficult to chew or swallow and can lead to a significant risk of infection; together, the ulcers, bleeding, inflammation, and pain constitute a condition called “oral mucositis.” There are a number of treatments available to help manage these symptoms, but they can vary widely in terms of nature and effectiveness. Those who prefer a natural remedy sometimes turn to ancient methods, such as the use of honey, to help treat their wounds, but does honey work for chemo mouth sores? Keep reading as the people from Chemo Mouthpiece™ answer that question.
What Causes Oral Mucositis in Chemo Patients?
It’s a well-known fact that the drugs used in chemotherapy attack both cancer cells and healthy tissue, leading to the chemotherapy side effects that plague so many patients. This happens because chemo drugs are designed to seek out and destroy fast-growing cells in the body, such as those found in tumors; unfortunately, they also tend to hit healthy areas that show similar types of growth, especially the hair, nails, mucous membranes, and bone marrow. When they reach these areas, the toxic chemicals begin interfering with the body’s processes and breaking down vulnerable tissues, causing — in the mouth, at least — the formation of sores.
These sores are more than a mere nuisance, however; left unattended, they can pose a serious threat to a patient’s health. A study published in 2008 found that an increase in the severity of oral mucositis symptoms was linked to longer fevers, extra days in the hospital, more than double the risk of infection, extended use of painkillers and IV nutrition, and an almost four-fold increase in a patient’s 100-day mortality risk. These complications — along with the more than $25,000 in hospital bills that they represent — give patients plenty of reason to seek treatments for this condition, conventional or otherwise.
Using Honey for Oral Mucositis Symptoms
Honey has been used for millennia as a treatment for a variety of wounds, primarily cuts, scrapes, burns, and ulcers of different types. In fact, it has proven so effective as an antibacterial agent that it is even used today in cases where an infection has proven resistant to traditional antibiotics and other conventional methods of healing. In addition to its infection-fighting properties, honey can be effective at keeping wounds from drying out, promoting healing, and creating a barrier against bacteria. When used topically, it can quickly clear out an infection and improve a patient’s chances of a swift recovery. But is honey right for patients with oral mucositis?
The answer is a solid “maybe.” Honey’s ability to fight off infections can be useful for those with mucositis, as infection is a primary concern and a potential threat to a patient’s life, and its moisturizing properties can help manage the dry mouth that can sometimes occur; that said, honey may be too sweet for those battling nausea as a side effect of their chemo, and those whose sense of taste has been altered may find it unpleasant. The greatest weakness of honey as a treatment for mouth sores, however, is that it fails to address the underlying cause: the chemo drugs. At best, honey can reduce the chances of an infection — a valuable trait, certainly — but there seems to be little it can do to help with the sores themselves as long as chemotherapy continues.
The Best Way to Prevent Mouth Sores from Chemotherapy
While doctors and scientists have yet to discover a foolproof method of stopping oral mucositis entirely, there are steps a patient can take to reduce the severity of symptoms once they appear. The key to this type of treatment lies in the application of freezing or near-freezing temperatures, a therapy called “cryotherapy.” When these low temps are applied to the tissues inside the mouth, they cause the blood vessels to contract; do this during a chemo infusion, and less of the toxic chemicals can reach the mouth because there’s less room to travel in those shrunken blood vessels.
Cryotherapy is the reason why nurses and doctors in treatment centers distribute ice chips for patients to suck on during their chemo infusions; the ice is meant to cool the mouth and shrink the blood vessels. However, ice chips can only do so much, as they can only affect a small area and only for a limited time. A specialized cryotherapy device such as the Chemo Mouthpiece™, on the other hand, can be much more effective. Because it can cool the entire oral cavity from top to bottom and side to side for the duration of a chemo treatment, the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can provide powerful relief from the worst of your oral mucositis symptoms.
Oral Ice Pack for Fighting Chemo Mouth Sores
The Chemo Mouthpiece™ is a specially designed ice pack for cooling your entire mouth during chemo infusions. Just freeze the mouthpiece ahead of your next treatment, then bring it with you and use it as the drugs are administered for uniform cryotherapy throughout your mouth. To learn more about the Chemo Mouthpiece™ and how it can help you or a loved one with oral mucositis, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.