We have been talking to nephrologists, transplant surgeons and dialysis clinic personnel to keep up with the unprecedented coronavirus health crisis our country is facing. Because people living with kidney failure are at increased risk of serious illness if they become infected with COVID-19, we have taken all the advice we are hearing and broken it down it into five important reminders.
1. You must keep going to treatment
This is the most important piece of advice for people on dialysis because missing even one treatment can be very harmful to your health — and if your health deteriorates, it puts you at even higher risk for serious illness. Put your treatment schedule at the top of your priorities.
2. Be in constant communication with your dialysis center
Centers are adapting to guidance from the CDC that sometimes changes by the hour. Some centers are limiting accompanying visitors. Others are having people wait in their cars instead of the waiting room to keep everyone at a safe distance from each other. Your center's response to this emergency may change from day to day. Be sure you are informed.
3. Know the signs of COVID-19 infection and be honest
Symptoms can appear two to 14 days after an exposure to the coronavirus. If you experience any of the symptoms, be honest and report it to your center. They will advise you about getting treatment, either at the center or at a hospital. The early symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, a cough or shortness of breath. If you have any of these symptoms, let your center know and take their advice. Do not show up at the center without talking to them first if you are symptomatic.
4. Try to get a supply of medicines and foods
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about getting more of the medicines you take so you can limit your trips to the pharmacy. Make sure you have plenty of kidney-friendly foods available at home and be sure you have what is needed for the KCER 3-Day Emergency Diet Plan for people on dialysis.
5. Follow the CDC recommendations for hygiene and social distancing
Remember: Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. (Sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself twice while washing your hands — that will ensure you have washed them long enough.) Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. Stay at least six feet away from people in public. Call your doctor or your center if you feel sick or have cold-like or flu-like symptoms including a fever, cough, sore throat, headache or body aches. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw used tissues into the trash. Clean and disinfect any objects and surfaces that you touch frequently.
We will be sure to keep you informed as we receive any updated information or advice for people living with kidney disease. Most importantly, do not panic and do not hesitate to ask others to help you with transportation, groceries or other things you need help with. Communities are coming together, as they do during a crisis, and there are helpers. Take advantage of that.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updates its Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) page regularly. It is a reliable source of the most recent factual information and you can check regularly for the latest updates.
You can find more information and resources for people living with kidney disease by visiting our special coronavirus webpage at KidneyFund.org/coronavirus. We will update the page with important information for people with kidney disease and their caregivers as the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold.