Summertime is for vacations—even if you’re on dialysis

Sandra M. Lauriat, M.D., FACP  |  Posted
Vacations and traveling on dialysis

Summertime is here and if you are like most people, you are ready for a break from the hustle and bustle of your daily routine. Vacation anyone? But what if you are a dialysis patient? Can you still take a vacation? The answer is an absolute, positive, without a doubt YES!!! All it takes is a little planning and preparation, so let’s get started...

Make a plan. Dialysis patients can travel just about anywhere. How about a cruise? Do you like beach vacations or road trips to visit family or friends? Are you a history buff and want to visit a historic site OR do you like a laid-back type of vacation sipping on a high protein smoothie?

In-center hemodialysis patients: Once you’ve set your plans, talk with your clinic social worker for help in finding a dialysis clinic that is close to your destination. Plan your “vacation” dialysis center early—at least eight weeks ahead of your vacation—and remember some destinations are very popular so be flexible with your plans. Check with your “vacation” center a week before you leave to make sure your dialysis appointment is secure. Many websites can also help you with this part of the planning. I have had patients travel on cruises and recently had a patient dialyze in Jamaica. Check with your social worker if you have questions about how payments occur for the vacation dialysis center.

Home dialysis patients: If you are a home hemodialysis patient, when you are on vacation you may either dialyze at a center or, depending on the machine you use, you can take the machine with you! One patient of mine takes his machine on an RV and travels all over the United States. His supplies are delivered to various destinations along his route. Peritoneal dialysis patients have the most freedom and flexibility when traveling. PD patients don’t require planning for a center—your supplies can be taken with you or delivered to your destination. Many of my PD patients have traveled overseas to Romania, India and Italy to name a few. How great is that?!!

Take it slow. No matter what type of dialysis you do, if you haven’t traveled for a while, avoid the temptation to “do it all.” This is especially true if you go up in elevation (like from sea level to the mountains), where the air is thinner. Plan for some down time during your vacation so that you come back home relaxed and not needing a vacation from your vacation.

Be prepared when you travel. What does that mean? Get an updated list of your medications and carry this with you. If you are traveling by plane, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance in boarding and carry your medications with you in case your baggage gets lost. If traveling on a road trip, plan for some healthy snacks in a cooler to take with you so you won’t be tempted by fast food and truck stop snacks. Since delays are always possible, have enough medication to last a few extra days. However you travel, take a copy of your most recent labs and medical record with a list of important phone numbers such as your doctor and dialysis center. Once you reach your destination, make sure you follow your diet and fluid restrictions—nothing ruins a vacation faster than having to make a trip to the ER.

Everyone needs a break, especially people with a chronic disease. Don’t let kidney disease keep you from enjoying what’s important to you. If travel is on your bucket list, make it happen with a little planning and preparation. I’d love to see where you travel this year so share some photos of your next adventure on the American Kidney Fund Facebook page whether it’s a trip to Las Vegas, a theme park, a road trip or a staycation. Happy trails to you!!!

Dr. Sandra Lauriat is a nephrologist with Dallas Nephrology Associates in Irving, Texas. She is passionate about helping patients fit dialysis into their lives, instead of having dialysis run their lives.

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