Why is it cold at dialysis centers?

There are many reasons why chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients on dialysis may find they feel cold at their dialysis centers. Issues such as season change, lack of warm attire, sitting under an air conditioning vent or even your physical or medical condition may be why you find dialysis centers on the colder side. Here are some things that might be causing this and ways you can get more comfortable when you go in for your dialysis treatments.

Summer outside, winter inside

Sometimes the cold temperature inside a dialysis center can be a stark contrast to the warm weather outside. Patients who go to their dialysis center during the summertime may arrive wearing their light summer clothing, forgetting to bundle up for their treatment. Although the weather outside is warm, remember that the air conditioned dialysis center may be cold and bring proper attire to keep warm.

Skin exposure

If you have a graft or fistula in your upper or lower arm or your leg, or a catheter in your chest, your access area is exposed during your dialysis treatment. Uncovering your skin, by rolling up your sleeve or your pants, or unbuttoning your shirt, may make you feel cold, especially when you remain in the same place for a long time. Nurses need to be able to see the access site to make sure everything is going okay. If a needle comes out of the access and a patient is losing blood it can be seen and fixed immediately because the access site is in clear view. Companies, including AccessWear Clothing, make sweatshirts and pants with zippers that only expose the access area, which may help keep patients more covered and warmer.

Air-conditioning vents

Next time you are sitting in your dialysis chair, look up. Do you see an air-conditioning vent? Where the air-conditioning vents are placed can be a factor as to why you get cold at the dialysis center. If you feel you get cold easily, ask the nurse or other health care team member to place you in a seat where the vents aren’t pointing down at you. They will try to help you be as comfortable as possible while dialyzing.

Blood temperature

The dialysis process sends your blood through the dialyzer, filters out waste and toxins and then sends the clean blood back into your body. When the blood is outside of the patient’s body, it becomes cool. But when it flows through the dialyzer alongside the dialysate solution, it warms up again. Temperature of the dialysate solution, as well as your body temperature, is taken into consideration during the treatment. The dialysis machine is programmed to monitor the dialysate to be sure it is in the correct temperature range to ensure that it is not too hot. Alarms are set to go off if the dialysate temperature goes too high or low during the treatment. Slight differences in temperature may occur during treatment depending on your temperature and dialysate temperature. Some patients feel colder because of this difference. Normal body temperature is between 95 to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 35 to 37 degrees Celcius.

Health care team is moving around

When you are at the dialysis center, rarely do you see your health care team off their feet. From the biomed technicians maintaining dialysis machines to nurses overseeing your dialysis, the health care team stays active which keeps them warm. Patients sit and dialyze usually between three and four hours and the lack of movement may tend to exacerbate the cold. If you are uncomfortable, talk to your nurse to find out if an adjustment can be made to the thermostat.

Anemia may cause you to feel cold

Have you ever noticed that not only are you cold at the dialysis center, but that you tend to feel cold in other places, too? Many chronic kidney disease patients have anemia, which aside from making you feel tired, can also make you feel cold. Anemia is the result of kidney disease patients not producing as much heat in their bodies due to fewer red blood cells which carry oxygen through the body. Low iron can also be a reason why you feel chilly. Talk to your doctor about how you can control your anemia.

Tips to keep warm at the dialysis center

Here are some suggestions for dialysis patients who get too cold at the center:

  • Pay attention to clothing. If it is summertime, bring a jacket or loose sweatshirt with you.
  • Pack a hat. This helps prevent heat from escaping at the top of your head.
  • Protect other limbs from the cold: bring gloves, scarves, thick socks or booties and a blanket.
  • Ask a social worker if you are interested in purchasing access accessible sweatshirts and pants from places such as Access Wear. Your social worker may be aware of other products that can help expose your access while keeping you warm.
  • Store your warm attire in a tote bag and keep it in the car or near your front door so you remember to bring it to the dialysis center. You may forget how cold the dialysis center is, especially in the summer. You can ask a health care team member if there are lockers or storage closets at the dialysis center for patient's personal belongings. If your dialysis center can accommodate this, you can leave your items at the center.
  • Talk to your doctor about concerns as to why you feel cold often.

If you find you are still cold at dialysis after bundling up, talk to your doctor and health care team about other physical reasons that may be causing you to feel cold. Ask about the temperature of the dialysate, medicines you are taking and other causes that could be making you feel cold. Your health care team will work with you to help warm you up at dialysis.


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