What's a Cold Cap—And Should You Wear One During Chemo?
If you are about to start chemotherapy for cancer treatment, then you have a lot of decisions to make. One decision your doctor may ask you to make is whether you want to wear a cold cap during your treatments. Sometimes, this question gets glossed over and you may not still understand what a cold cap is or if it's really that important. You deserve to be informed and to make choices about your health, so here's a closer look at cold caps and the things to consider.
1. What are cold caps?
Basically, they are what the name suggests: these are tightly fitting caps that are chilled prior to you putting them on. Most models contain a special gel that retains its coolness longer than water would. You wear the cap for a little while before your chemo treatment, during the treatment, and for about a half hour afterwards.
2. What do cold caps do?
The goal of wearing a cold cap is to prevent the hair loss that is so common in chemotherapy patients. The cold temperature of the cap causes the blood vessels in your scalp to restrict. The smaller those blood vessels are during your chemo session, the fewer chemo drugs come into contact with your hair follicles. This can save your hair follicles from damage so they don't fall out.
3. Are there any downsides to cold caps?
There are some small downsides, but no serious side effects. Some people find cold caps uncomfortable, and some find that they get headaches during and after chemo from the cold of the cap. If you try the cap and don't like these side effects, you will have to decide whether you would rather deal with the side effects, or with hair loss. This is a personal decision, so choose what works best for you.
4. What are some tips for wearing a cold cap?
If you do decide to wear a cold cap during chemo treatment, make sure you avoid dying your hair or getting a perm during this time. The hair coloring agents can weaken your hair, reducing the effectiveness of the cold cap. Also, make sure you replace your cap every month. The cap's ability to cool slowly becomes diminished, and an older cap may not get your scalp cool enough to prevent hair loss.
Chemo cold caps are helpful for many chemo patients. Chat with your doctor if you're still not certain whether or not you should wear one.