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Seven Summertime Precautions for People with Kidney Disease

There are certain precautions that everyone should take during the sunny and warm summer months. If you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), you’ll need to take a few additional steps to protect your health in the summertime or when visiting warmer climates.

1. Go outside and get moving

Sunny summer days are ideal for going outside and exercising. If you have kidney disease, be sure to check with your doctor before starting a summertime exercise routine. 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. Walking and yoga are two activities that put only minimal stress on the body. To reap the benefits of having sunlight activate vitamin D in your skin, so spend 10-15 minutes in the sun before applying sunscreen.

2. Keep good fluid balance

Check with your dietitian or healthcare team for guidance about your fluid intake and whether it should be adjusted on days that you spend more time outdoors. 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 want to carry a small spray bottle filled with lemon water or mouthwash to spray your mouth when you are feeling dry.

3. Save your skin from sun exposure

Everyone should wear sunscreen and apply it liberally. Unprotected sun exposure can cause skin damage. 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.

4. 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.

5. Protect your access if you go swimming

If you are on dialysis and have a vascular access — whether it’s an AV fistula, a graft or a catheter — remember to cover it with a protective dressing when you swim. Ask your nurse which holds up best in water. For those with a central venous catheter (CVC), they should not submerge themselves and the CVC in the water at all. For people on peritoneal dialysis (PD), your healthcare team will show you how to properly clamp your PD catheter shut. The PD 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.

6. Eat healthy summer foods

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 and potassium. Remember to practice portion control as all fruits and vegetables contain some potassium. Here is a list of fruits and vegetables that can add color and flavor to your kidney diet:

Fruits

Vegetables

Blackberries

Carrots

Blueberries

Cauliflower

Cherries

Cucumber

Grapes

Eggplant

Peaches

Green beans

Plums

Lettuce

Raspberries

Onion

Strawberries

Peppers (sweet and bell)

Watermelon (1 cup per day)

Potatoes (leached)

 

Snow peas

 

Summer squash

 

Radishes

Use these summertime ingredients to make delicious meals found at DaVita.com/Recipes. Try the following:

Fruit recipes

Vegetable recipes

Ambrosia

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Blueberry-Peach Crisp

Cucumber-Carrot Salad

Creamy Fruit Salad

Eggplant Casserole

Quick Fruit Sorbet

Grilled Summer Squash

Red, White and Blue Pie

Picnic Potato Salad

Watermelon Summer Cooler

Savory Green Beans

7. Plan your vacation to include dialysis

When you’re on dialysis you can still enjoy a summer vacation. To accommodate treatments while you’re away, pre-planning is the key to a successful trip. If you do in-center hemodialysis or home hemodialysis (HHD), ask your nurse or social worker how you can schedule treatments at a dialysis center close to where you’ll be staying. Home hemodialysis patients dialyzing with the NxStage System One can take their portable equipment with them and continue HHD while they’re on vacation if they prefer.

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. You can also work with your supplier to have dialysate delivered to your destination. Start planning at least three months before your trip, and ask fellow patients for any tips on the DaVita Discussion Forums.

Summary

By taking a common-sense approach to summer, you can enjoy long, warm days while you support your kidney health. Taking a few summertime precautions — protecting your skin, staying hydrated, controlling liquid intake and planning a summer getaway — means you can have fun and remain healthy.

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