Peripheral neuropathy can be an unwanted side-effect of chemotherapy. Peripheral neuropathy is the term given to symptoms experienced due to damage to the nerves in the limbs. These symptoms can include pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness among other things. Symptoms such as these can make cooking a difficult and dangerous task, as handling objects is often more difficult.

Neuropathy is common among diabetics too, so there are treatments such as pain medications, which can improve symptoms and make carrying out daily tasks easier. Studies show acupuncture can help with neuropathy too. Make sure to speak with your medical team to find out what your options are and to ensure you are taking any medications correctly.

Here are some tips to help:

  • Make sure your kitchen is well lit to avoid unnecessary accidents. To prevent falls, keep floors clean of spills, and clutter free and rug free.
  • If your feet bother you, wear comfortable loose shoes like Croc clogs, and have a stable bar height stool or chair handy to sit on. It will allow you to take the weight off your feet as you work.
  • Use non-breakable dishes and glasses. Take extra care when handling more fragile objects such as paper coffee cups- consider using something more sturdy if possible.
  • The American Cancer Society recommends avoiding alcohol, as this can cause nerve damage, making your condition worse, so no wine while you cook!
  • If you find using knives and other kitchen utensils difficult to hold, look for brand like OXO Good Grips that has utensils with wide grips and handles that are more comfortable and easier to hold.
  • Buy pre-chopped or pre-cut vegetables and fruit at the market. It can make cooking a lot easier and is safer safer that wrestling with a sharp knife. Canned and jarred vegetables and fruit are also easier to manage.  Frozen vegetable and fruit mixes can also be very useful in these instances, but consider wearing soft mitts when taking items out of the freezer to protect your hands from the cold. See note below.
  • A good idea is to invest in a food processor to make chopping much easier. Mini 2 cup processors are perfect if you only need small quantities or live alone. Also, don’t think twice about getting an electric can opener and a jar opener. They will spare your hands further.
  • Be careful with temperature extremes, both hot and cold.  When washing dishes use gloves. To help insulate your hands against the heat, try wearing a pair soft, fine art cotton gloves under them to reduce the risk of discomfort or sensation of burning. Use long cuffed oven mitts when handling hot dishes or pots, or when taking foods out of the freezer. Freezing cold can hurt neuropathic hands just as much as searing heat.
  • Choose simple recipes to prepare- try these recipes which are easy to prepare and full of flavor.
  • If your hospital offers it, speak to your medical team about having an occupational therapy assessment. An occupational therapist will assess how you are managing at the moment, and can advise on specialized cutlery and other household items to help retain independence.

We hope that these tips help. If you have discovered ‘hacks’ to help you manage your neuropathy, please let us know in the comments.

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