What to Know About Coronavirus If You Have Kidney Disease

As a new virus, there is limited information on the risk factors for COVID-19 (coronavirus). But data show that people of any age with serious medical conditions, such as kidney disease, might be at higher risk. This includes anyone with diabetes; undergoing dialysis for chronic kidney disease; or having a kidney transplant due to use of medicines that can weaken the immune system. And as much of the country begins to phase in routine activities, it’s more important than ever to remain safe and know what to do if you feel sick.

Understanding the Main Symptoms of Coronavirus

As we learn more about this new coronavirus, the list of symptoms has grown. It now includes: cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills or shaking, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and recent loss of smell or taste. For more information on the signs of coronavirus, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  

Tips for Staying Safe

Because kidney disease increases the risk of serious complications from the coronavirus, you should maintain all measures to remain safe and healthy. These include thorough and frequent hand washing or use of hand sanitizer, staying at home and avoiding public places as much as possible – even during phases one and two as your part of the country re-opens, social distancing when you must go out, and wearing a facemask when you’re outside of your immediate quarantine circle. 

When to Contact Your Doctor

If you notice any new or worsening symptoms, regardless of what you think is causing the changes, contact your primary doctors right away. This would include your primary care provider, kidney specialist (nephrologist), and/or transplant doctor. The doctor(s) will let you know what to do. You may be offered a telehealth visit instead of an in-office appointment. This is a way to assess your health and keep you safe from being exposed to the coronavirus. For tips on making the most of this new way of speaking with your doctor, click here

Do not delay critical medical needs, including dialysis. But do ask ahead as to how the dialysis center will protect you against COVID-19 and what you should do to remain as safe as possible when you’re there.

You should also keep at least a month supply of medicine and several weeks of healthy food at home. 

In case you do get sick, it’s important to have a plan in place. This can include a list of your medicines, dialysis facility, medical providers, and any other care providers. It should also note how you plan to stay in touch with caregiver(s) and family – such as email, text message, or cell phone. 

For more detailed information about kidney disease and COVID-19, visit the American Association for Kidney Patients and the National Kidney Foundation.

The Role of Palliative Care 

Palliative care specializes in treating the symptoms and stress of serious illness. The skills that palliative care teams use every day at the bedside–symptom management, communication with patients and their families, compassionate support for understanding patient priorities, and a calming presence–are the same skills they use to treat patients with COVID-19. Palliative care teams know only too well how challenging it is for patients and families to face the burdens and uncertain outcomes due to serious illness.

Palliative care is recommended for those with kidney disease by the Renal Physicians Association as a way “to improve patient-centered outcomes to … patients who suffer from burdens of their disease.”

To learn more about whether palliative care is right for you, take the short quiz at GetPalliativeCare.org.

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