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Tuberculosis: Lifestyle Management

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This information was reviewed and approved by Dr. Michael Iseman (2/1/2013).

People with active TB disease should stay home from work and school until the doctor says it's safe to return, in order to avoid infecting others. This may take a few weeks. (Treatment will continue for several months.) Once the doctor says you are no longer infectious, you can return to your normal activities if you feel up to it.

If you are being treated at home at the beginning of active TB disease treatment, while you are still infectious, you should be careful to avoid infecting family members. The bacteria that cause TB are spread through the air. You may wish to wear a mask to cover your nose and mouth. Cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing, then seal the tissue in a bag to throw it away. Make sure the rooms you are in have adequate ventilation, so that any bacteria you do exhale are carried away. You can place a fan facing out of a window to blow bacteria-carrying air out of the room.

People with active disease will need to tell their doctor or health department about anyone they have had close contact with, such as family, friends, or coworkers. These people must have skin tests to check for infection.

The most important point is to take all of your medications on time and for the full period. If you stop taking some of your medications or skip some doses, you greatly increase the risk of developing difficult-to-treat drug-resistant TB. You may want to enlist the help of a friend or family member to remind you about medicine; mark days off on a calendar as you take the pills; or use a pillbox that has a section for each day to help you remember to take your medicine on schedule.

Your doctor may recommend that you have directly observed therapy (DOT). In DOT, a health care worker meets you every day or several times a week and watches you take your medicine. This helps you remember to take your pills and also lets the health care worker watch you for side effects.

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