PD Patients: Your Passport to an Infection-Free Summer

By Debra A. Wolf, DaVita® Registered Nurse for Home Dialysis

Summer is a wonderful season to enjoy the outdoors and your favorite activities. Doing dialysis at home certainly allows more time to enjoy swimming, hiking, gardening, camping, fishing and just relaxing in the fresh summer breeze. These activities are perfectly acceptable with peritoneal dialysis (PD) and home hemodialysis (HHD), but PD patients may need to take a few more precautions and extra steps to avoid peritonitis.

Here are a few reminders to help prevent infection during the warmer months of the season.

Swimming: Please talk to your PD nurse and nephrologist about a special covering that can be used to keep your PD catheter from getting wet. It is preferable that you only swim in pools that you know are being treated with proper chemicals. Remember to remove the dressing and wash your exit site and/or shower after swimming.

Hiking: This is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and fresh air, but remember not to carry more than 25 pounds to prevent a hernia and/or leaks. After hiking, wash your hands and exit site, or take a shower when returning home.

Gardening: Did you know that lots of germs live in soil and water? To prevent soil-related infections, make sure that your catheter is firmly secured and wear gardening gloves. Use a gardening mat to kneel, which helps with bending, especially if you have an abdominal catheter. When you are finished, wash your hands and be especially sure to scrub under your fingernails. Then clean your exit site and/or shower.

Camping and fishing: Talk to your healthcare team about going camping. Discuss if you will have access to electricity, and where you will be doing exchanges. Remember to bring plenty of antibacterial soap and antibacterial hand gel. Avoid getting into freshwater lakes and ponds, unless it is just your feet! Use plenty of hand gel throughout your trip. Keep your exit site clean and dry.

Picnicking: Remember to pack plenty of foods high in protein and low in phosphorus. Don’t forget to pack antibacterial hand sanitizer.

And remember these important tips year-round, and especially in mild weather:

  • Always close all windows, doors and turn off fans at least 10 minutes before beginning an exchange.
  • Everyone with you must wear a mask or must leave the area where you are doing an exchange.
  • Keep your exit site clean and dry.
  • Change dressings immediately if they become wet or soiled.
  • Wash your exit site, or shower, after gardening or perspiring while outdoors.
  • Talk to your PD nurse and team about your planned summer activities and infection prevention.
  • Minimize bending or lifting when working outdoors.
  • Enjoy traditional cookout foods when barbecuing and picnicking—they are high in protein.
  • Don’t forget about antibacterial hand sanitizer. You can take it anywhere.

In short: The best way to have a peritonitis-free summer is to communicate with your healthcare team, follow instructions and enjoy!