Summer tips for dialysis patients

Summer has finally arrived with its sunny skies and warm weather! It’s time for everyone to organize their vacation and relax on the beach.

However, there are certain additional steps that every Chronic Kidney Disease and dialysis patient needs to take during the summertime or when visiting warmer climates to protect their health and improve their quality of lives.

1. Keep a good fluid balance: It is hard for dialysis patients to maintain their fluid restrictions during the warm summer months. Although patients do not want to become dehydrated, they also do not want to experience fluid overload. The kidneys control the body’s hydration level. It is imperative for patients of kidney failure to preserve appropriate fluid levels as this vital organ is unable to flush out additional waste fluid. It’s best to avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol or ingesting large amounts of sugar, as these can cause your body to lose more fluid. Be careful of very cold beverages, which can cause stomach cramps. Try to stay in the shade; exposure to the sun causes perspiration and the urge to drink. If you have diabetes, maintain good blood sugar control; high blood glucose can make you thirsty. Avoid salty and spicy foods; they can make you thirsty. If you’re thirsty try sucking on an ice cube, freeze some of your favorite fruits for snacks, use mint or basil in foods and beverages to refresh the mouth, chew sugar-free candies or gums, and chew on crushed ice. Check with your doctor for guidance about your fluid intake and whether it should be adjusted on days that you spend more time outdoors.

2. Protect your access: If you go swimming try to protect it, as well as from possible skin injuries. For people on Peritoneal Dialysis - if permitted by the protocol of the unit - they can swim in clear sea waters 4-8 weeks after the implantation of the permanent peritoneal catheter. It is very important to keep the exit siteof the catheter completely dry, because moisture favors bacterial growth and especially fungi. In addition, the exit site should be covered with a waterproof patch and diving should be avoided as tension may develop in the peritoneal catheter and the exit site due to pressure difference.

3. Exercise: Sunny summer days are ideal for exercising, but 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. But, sunny days of summer are great times to go for a walk or enjoy a light exercise routine. If you have kidney disease, be sure to check with your doctor before starting a summertime exercise routine and your physician can help you create an exercise plan that will support your health. Even if you feel tired at times, easy exercises may help you feel better. Avoid strenuous physical activity, walking and yoga are two activities that put only minimal stress on the body. 

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. Try avoiding the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest, and use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. To get the benefits of having sunlight activate vitamin D in your skin, spend 10-15 minutes in the sun before applying sunscreen. Remember reapplying your sunscreen every two hours and 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 it up with light cotton clothing and wearing a hat, or sitting in the shade. Especially, during hot weather, staying inside with air conditioning is a good way to avoid serious heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

5. Wear sunglasses: Sunglasses protect your eyes in the same way that sunscreen protects your skin from harmful sun damage. The skin around the eyes is highly susceptible to UV damage and is highly sensitive to sunlight. Incredibly, up to 10 percent of skin cancers develop on the eyelids, and although only a small portion of cases are deadly, significant tissue damage and blindness can occur. The sunglasses should block at least 99% of UVB rays and 50% of UVA radiation.

6. Food Selection: Research shows that fruits and vegetables are important for good health, yet most people don’t eat enough. Summer is the perfect time to fill your plate with kidney-friendly foods that are low in phosphorus (unenriched rice milk, low-fat cream cheese, couscous, skinless turkey or chicken thigh) and potassium (like apple, grape, pineapple, plum). Remember to practice portion control as all fruits and vegetables contain some potassium. Snack on low-potassium vegetables and fruits that are ice cold, like chilled sliced pears, apples, or grapes (limited to a small cup).

7. Alcohol: Consult your Nephrologist or Dietitian before you drink any alcohol. The issues you should raise with them concern the possible increase in the amount of fluid, ingredients such as Phosphorus and Potassium, reaction to prescribed and over-the-counter medication you may be taking, and possible increased calorie intake.  

8. Plan your vacation to include dialysis: When you’re on dialysis you can still enjoy a summer vacation and pre-planning is the key to a successful trip. For domestic travel, start planning at least 30 days before departure, whereas for foreign travel, getting started even earlier is a good idea. If you would prefer your treatments to be scheduled on specific days and at specific times, inform the center in advance. People on peritoneal dialysis can also take their equipment with them. Be sure to pack enough supplies to do your PD exchanges when you’re away. Start planning at least three months before your trip.

Mesogeios Dialysis Centers Group Scientific Team 

  • Bibliography 
  • D. Vlasopoulos, E. Panagiotaki, Magdalini Kostenidou: Swimming - Quality of life for patients undergoing Peritoneal Dialysis, Kidney Disease Year Edition, 2010     
  • Karalis, M.: Choosing “Renal Friendly” Holiday Foods, 2003

National Kidney Foundation: Travel Tips: A Guide for Kidney Patients, 2017