5 urgent reminders for dialysis patients during coronavirus

We’ve been talking to nephrologists, transplant surgeons and dialysis clinic personnel to keep up with the unprecedented health crisis our country is facing. Because people living with kidney failure are at increased risk of serious illness if they become infected with the coronavirus, 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 dialysis patients 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 patients wait in their cars instead of the waiting room to keep patients at a 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 2-14 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 that you can limit your trips to the pharmacy. Make sure that 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 dialysis patients. Details of the Emergency Diet may be found here: https://www.kcercoalition.com/en/resources/patient-resources/during-an-emergency/3-day-emergency-kidney-diet2/.

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’ve washed them long enough.) Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. Stay at least 6 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’ll be sure to keep you informed as we receive any new information or advice for patients. 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’s 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 kidney patients by visiting our special coronavirus webpage at KidneyFund.org/coronavirus. We’ll update the page with important information for kidney patients and their caregivers as the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold.

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About the Author(s)

Mike Spigler

Michael Spigler is AKF’s vice president for patient services and kidney disease education.

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