Summer often brings sunny skies, warm weather, and good times for many Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis patients. However, the summer season is also 'trauma season' for hospitals because Emergency Room visits spike during the summer months by 15% to 27%, according to the website Physicians MD. Still, there are certain precautions that every Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis patient should take during the sunny and warm summer months to protect their health gains and improve their quality of lives.
1. Protect your access if you go swimming: Dialysis patients should always remember to cover their Dialysis Access with a protective dressing when going swimming. Ask your Dialysis Nurse which holds up best in water. For people on Peritoneal Dialysis, your Healthcare Team will show you how to properly clamp your Peritoneal Dialysis catheter shut. The Peritoneal catheter should be immobilized to avoid trauma to or tension on the catheter while swimming. The dressing should be changed as soon as you're done with swimming. When going for a swim, do so in the ocean or a chlorinated pool. Avoid bodies of water that aren’t chlorinated, such as ponds, lakes, and rivers, which have a greater chance of hosting bacteria that can infect your access.
2. Keep a good fluid balance: It is hard for Dialysis patients to maintain their fluid restrictions during the warm months of summer. Although patients do not want to become dehydrated, they also do not want to experience fluid overload which has short term and long term health complications. Check with your Healthcare Team for guidance about your fluid intake during hot summer days and whether it should be adjusted to account for the rising temperatures. Be careful of very cold beverages, which can cause stomach cramps. It’s best to avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol or ingesting large amounts of sugar, as these can actually cause your body to lose more fluid. Try to stay cool by wearing a hat or a wet bandana around your neck to help control your thirst. You might also want to carry a small spray bottle filled with lemon water or mouthwash to spray your mouth when you are feeling excessively thirsty.
3. Wear sunglasses: Sunglasses protect your eyes in the same way that sunscreen protects your skin from harmful sun damage. Your sunglasses should block at least 99% of UVB rays and 50% of UVA rays. Wraparound sunglasses and other styles that completely cover the eyes are best to avoid sun damage. The last thing patients need is another health complication.
4. Save your skin from sun exposure: Every Chronic Kidney Disease, Dialysis, and Kidney Transplant patient should wear sunscreen and apply it liberally. Unprotected sun exposure can cause skin damage and, in some cases, may even lead to skin cancers. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Remember to reapply your sunscreen every two hours and also right after swimming or exercising. A water-resistant sunscreen will be less likely to come off if you swim or perspire. You can also protect your skin by covering up with a shirt, wearing a hat or sitting in the shade. You may want to soak up some sun before applying sunscreen to activate some of the vitamin D in your skin - ten to 15 minutes is all it takes.
5. Go outside and get moving if you can: Many Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis patients avoid going outside on summer days because they fear the impact that it may have on their health. Well, actually sunny days of summer are great times to go for a walk or enjoy a light exercise routine. Be sure to check with your Healthcare Team before starting a summertime exercise routine. Even if you feel tired at times, easy exercises may help you feel better.
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