Summer often brings sunny skies, warm weather, and good times for many Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis patients. 
It also brings challenging times for workers exposed to chronic heat stress and recurrent dehydration, increasing their risk for CKD and, ultimately, kidney failure. 

There are crucial precautions that every Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis patient should take during the sunny and warm summer months to protect their health gains and improve their quality of life.

The summer season in Florida has very high temperatures and high humidity. As a result, heat illness could affect many people. Heat illness occurs when the body temperature exceeds the individual's ability to dissipate that heat. The clinical characteristics of heat illness are when the body temperature approaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit and when humidity is greater than 70%. Once the humidity is high, sweating becomes less effective at dissipating body heat, and the core body temperature begins to rise.

What Happens to the Kidneys When Someone Has Heat Illness?

Body temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit will cause significant problems for the kidneys. Dehydration will lead to low blood pressure and decreased kidney function. 

Many metabolic systems start to shut down in response to heat illness, and a decline in kidney function is part of that abnormality in metabolic systems. There is a breakdown of muscle tissue that results in kidney failure. Finally, heart failure and shock can lead to kidney failure during episodes of severe heatstroke. Avoid using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Motrin, Ibuprofen, Advil, or Aleve during exposure to heated environments, as this could lead to acute kidney failure.

What if I Suspect Heat Illness?

If you have someone who is warm and confused or delirious, not making any urine, and breathing rapidly, you must get this person to a cooler environment. You should activate emergency services to have them transported to an emergency facility.

If you have access to a fan, ice, or cooling mist, you should place the patient in a cooler environment. If they are unconscious or poorly responsive, do not offer them oral liquids for the risk of inducing aspiration and pneumonia. External cooling such as mists plus fan, ice packs to the head and neck, removing clothing, and applying cool compresses can all be effective. Getting the patient to emergency services is the most important thing.

1. Protect your access if you go swimming

Dialysis patients should always remember to cover their Dialysis Access with a protective dressing when going swimming. Talk to your nephrologist or APRN, which holds up best in water. Your Healthcare Team will show you how to clamp your Peritoneal Dialysis catheter shut adequately for people on Peritoneal Dialysis.

You should immobilize the Peritoneal catheter to avoid trauma or tension on the catheter while swimming. Ideally, you should change the dressing as soon as you finish swimming. When going for a swim, do so in the ocean or a chlorinated pool. Patients must be careful to avoid lakes or polluted areas of the sea, as they increase the danger of contracting an infection. 

2. Fluid balance:

It is hard for Dialysis patients to maintain their fluid restrictions during the warm months of summer. Although patients do not want to become dehydrated, they also do not want to experience fluid overload, short-term and long-term health complications. 

Be careful of icy beverages, which can cause stomach cramps. It's best to avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol or ingesting large amounts of sugar, as these can cause your body to lose more fluid. Try to stay cool by wearing a hat or a wet bandana around your neck to help control your thirst. You might also want to carry a small spray bottle filled with lemon water or mouthwash to spray your mouth when you feel excessively thirsty.

Check with your nephrologist for guidance about your fluid intake during hot summer days and whether it should be adjusted to account for the rising temperatures.

3. Wear sunglasses:

Sunglasses protect your eyes in the same way that sunscreen protects your skin from harmful sun damage. Your sunglasses should block at least 99% of UVB rays and 50% of UVA rays. Wraparound sunglasses and other styles that completely cover the eyes are best to avoid sun damage. The last thing patients need is another health complication.

4. Save your skin from sun exposure

Every Chronic Kidney Disease, Dialysis, and Kidney Transplant patients should wear sunscreen and apply it liberally. Unprotected sun exposure can cause skin damage and, in some cases, may even lead to skin cancers. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.

Remember to reapply your sunscreen every two hours and also right after swimming or exercising. A water-resistant sunscreen will be less likely to come off if you swim or perspire. You can also protect your skin by covering up with a shirt, wearing a hat, or sitting in the shade.

5. Go outside. Get moving

Many Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis patients avoid going outside on summer days because they fear the impact that it may have on their health. Morning or late afternoon sunny days of summer are great times to walk or enjoy a light exercise routine. Even if you feel tired at times, easy exercises may help you feel better. Please, check with your nephrologist before starting a summertime exercise routine. 

Whether you're spending time outdoors with your family, caring for a loved one with a chronic condition, or working outdoors, it's essential to keep cool, keep a good fluid balance, and know the warning signs of heat-related illnesses. Be sure to talk with your nephrologist before the summer season about other ways you can stay safe during the warm summer months.