Heat is the number one (1) weather-related killer among chronically ill patients such as those on Dialysis — more than tornados, floods, and hurricanes, suggested Climatecentral.org. According to the Daily Register, "Dialysis patients are particularly sensitive to periods of high heat." It is estimated that between 600 and 1,500 heat-related deaths occur in an average summer in the United States. That is why it is concerning that most regions across the country are now seeing their hottest temperatures of the year. What's worse is that deaths are projected to increase by thousands to tens-of-thousands each year. Well, what can Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis patients do to protect themselves?
Recommended Reading: Feeling Extremely Hot With Intense Sweating Can Be A Bad Sign For CKD and Diabetics
In addition to increasing the risk of mortality, sweltering heat can cause problems throughout the body such as dehydration, fluid overload, cramps, severe exhaustion, dizziness, vomiting, heat rash, heart complications (leading cause of death in the Chronic Kidney Disease Community), and exacerbation (worsening) of respiratory issues. The following are tips that patients can implement to help limit their risk as well as improve their quality of life and even potentially increase longevity:
1. Never sit in your car: Sometimes after Dialysis to recover or while waiting for a family member or friend to run errands, a Dialysis patient will stay seated in the car. Patients should never wait in cars while it is hot outside. Even with the windows down, it is often a big no-no. This is because Dialysis patients are more susceptible and are at a higher risk for heat-related illness and injury than the general population. As a result, just a few minutes in a hot car can be extremely dangerous - even fatal for patients. Try to find a bench outside or wait inside the destination that you are visiting (which likely has air conditioning) instead of taking the risk of staying in the car. If you are driving, use the air conditioning or drive with the windows down when you start heating up.
2. Outdoor...fun?: Try to avoid doing any sort of strenuous activity in the warm weather. Even when patients are not feeling their best, they push themselves to get up and go for a walk, hike or a bike ride. These sorts of activities can actually be very strenuous and should be avoided during the summer heat. Try doing your walks inside through the house, or riding a stationary bike at your local gym.
3. Stay cool: Although it is recommended that most patients stay inside while the sun is at it's hottest, they should also remain cool. If the temperatures are hot then open the windows, turn on the fan, and/or start the central cooling system (air conditioning system).
4. Wash it off and cool down: Most Dialysis patients do not realize that when it is sweltering hot outside, a nice simple cold shower or sponge bath may offer a lot of relief. Also, brushing your teeth can be quite refreshing and even limit thirst.
5. Feeling thirsty?: Although Dialysis patients are particularly sensitive to hot weather, they could harm themselves by drinking too much fluid. Always ask your Nephrologist how much you should drink when the weather is hot. Also, limit your thirst by avoiding salt, sugar, and sports drinks (often higher in sodium). Moreover, sucking on a lemon wedge, ice chips, sugar-free sour candy, and eating frozen grapes should help to quench thirst during the hot summer months.
6. Warning signs of heat exhaustion: If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can turn into a heat stroke. Warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, cramps, headache, confusion, nausea or vomiting, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, and fainting. If you believe that you are experiencing heat exhaustion then remove any tight or unnecessary clothing, take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath, and apply other cooling measures such as a cold towel.
7. Warning signs of heat stroke: A heat stroke can be fatal. Warning signs of heat stroke include hot dry skin, very high body temperature, dizziness, nausea, confusion, strange behavior or unconsciousness, and rapid pulse or a throbbing headache. In the case of a heat stroke, call 9-1-1.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for Dialysis patients to faint during the hot heat of the summer. Be sure to click here and order your No BP/No Stick, Fistula Protector Wristband to help protect your Dialysis Arm even if you fall unconscious.
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