Kidney disease and the summer season

We should never forget healthy living rules

As a kidney patient, there are certain measures you should take during the sunny and warm summer months. There are mandatory precautions that you should always keep in mind.


We tend to want to walk outside more and going to the beach sounds so appealing. The right amount of sun is good for our health, but you need to take it moderately because ultraviolet rays have harmful effects on your skin.

To better control and enjoy the benefits of the sun, you need to take special care. As a kidney patient, you should be alert and cautious to prevent future problems. Kidney patients can also take advantage of these days, but should be particularly alert to the dangers of dehydration, which worsens kidney function.

For most of us, holidays go hand in hand with sun, beach, sea, pool and heat. However, you should never forget that it is on the beach or in the pool that you will be exposed to the sun and, as such, you should be alert and cautious to prevent future problems. 

The sun

Sunshine is good for our health, as it increases the absorption of vitamin D. However, if we don’t know how to protect ourselves from the sun, it can also be an enemy.

There are two types of ultraviolet rays that can damage the skin: UVA rays and UVB rays. UVA rays are responsible for tanning (melanin production), spots and wrinkles on the skin and UVB rays for redness, in addition to increasing the risk of skin cancer.

Being in the sun in a healthy way implies responsible exposure, always using broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects from both types of radiation, and even if you put on a sunscreen lotion avoid direct exposure between 11am and 4pm, the period when radiation is most intense and dangerous. In this interval, wear a t-shirt and protect your-self under a sun umbrella or stay away from the beach. The consequences  of  excessive  and  reckless exposure are very serious and can only appear many years later.

Even when it seems that there is little sun or when it looks overcast, some SPF (sun protection factor) is probably in order, as we tend to forget to put it on. The temperature may still be high, especially when accompanied by wind. The wind, being hot, also burns the skin, sometimes leaving burns more serious than the sun itself. Another advice is don’t fall asleep on the beach while lying in the sun!

Benefits of the sun

The sun is necessary for life and has real benefits. Sunlight increases our energy, improves our mood and our immune system. There are many benefits to sunbathing, like:

  • Reduces the risk of depression
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Cleaner skin and healthier appearance
  • Balances hormones
  • Less toxins
  • Better blood circulation
  • More vitamin D
  • Strengthens bones and joints
  • Increased well-being and relaxation
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Increased well-being and relaxation

Keep in mind

Kidney patients should bear in mind the following:

  • Avoid sun exposure during the hottest hours.
  • Wear cool, light clothes, use head and eye protection.
  • Drink the amount of fluids recommended by your doctor.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine, salt and alcohol.
  • Avoid walking outside during the hot-test times of the day, between 11am and 5pm.
  • Use sunscreen, with an SPF equal to or greater than 30.
  • Sleep in air-conditioned places. When this is not possible, place bottles of ice in the room (at high places and on your head)  and use light and cool clothes.
  • Monitor your blood pressure.
  • Don’t ignore that dizzy feeling, increasing fatigue and an “acceleration” or irregular heartbeat.

In case of sunstroke

If after being exposed to the hot sun the person with kidney failure feels:

  • Increase in body temperature
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Wheezing
  • Dry mouth and throat.

Take immediate actions:

  • Place the patient in a cool room
  • Offer small ice cubes (or cold water)
  • Spray their body with cool water
  • Take their body temperature
  • Contact a doctor or take them to the ER

Patients who are on dialysis or haemodialysis catheters should be particularly careful when at the beach and/or pool, as they can’t get wet, given the risk of developing infection. The countryside can be a great alternative instead of diving-in at the seaside.


Sunscreen should always be used by both adults and children, as it works as a protective barrier against UV rays. The SPF should be appropriate to your skin type and colour, but the idea is to always use a high protection factor (at least SPF 30 on the body and 50 on the face). When it comes to children or the elderly, use an SPF of 50+ or higher.

In case of a sunburn, you should apply cold water compresses to the burned skin, to decrease the temperature of that area, stay out of the sun for two days or more, moisturise the skin with an appropriate cream, avoid bathing in hot water, drink plenty of fluids. If the burn is severe or has no sign of improvement, see a doctor!

Bathing in the sea

When the weather is hot, it feels nice to take a dip in the sea or dive in the pool. But water can pose some dangers and you need to be aware of them and consider the following:

  • Choose  a beach with a lifeguard and always pay attention to the flag, respecting the rules. Whenever possible, we recommend blue flag beaches.
  • The sea can be an enemy. Even though it seems calm and without any danger, there can be currents or eddies, which are not visible. In case of doubt, talk to the lifeguard.
  • Avoid entering the water quickly if it is too cold. Thermal shock can be fatal, causing digestion to stop, fainting or even heart attack.
  • Always pay attention to when you finish eating and respect digestion times, which is between 2 and a half to 3 hours, weather it is a light or heavier meal.

Food and hydration

For haemodialysis patients, fluid intake and control are essential to prevent the accumulation of fluids between haemodialysis treatments. Excess fluid in the body can cause hypertension, heart problems and breathing difficulties.

Tips for coping with thirst on the hottest days:

  • Avoid carbonated drinks, rich in sugar, as they cause even more thirst.
  • Liquids should be ingested in small quantities throughout the day.
  • Use warm water to rinse.
  • You can use a slice of lemon to stimulate saliva and moisten your mouth. Use a maximum of 2 lemon slices per day due to its high potassium content.
  • The best way to reduce fluid intake is to avoid  thirst  caused by the salt you consume. Avoid foods high in salt.
  • In addition to water, there are other foods that are also considered liquids: soup, juices, soft drinks, tea, coffee, milk, liquid yogurt, ice cream and ice. However, the best options are still water, tea, milk, barley coffee in the coffee maker or coffee machine, and weak carioca coffee.

Avoid excess sugar and salt and replace salt with herbs or spices. Avoid processed or pre-cooked foods. Increase your consumption of fruit and vegetables and eat regular meals.

In short, if you want to have a peaceful holiday with no major incidents, when it comes to the sun remember all these precautions. Above all, set an example for the young ones in your family, because if you are careful and apply these rules, children will copy you.

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