Ultimate Guide to Kidney Health Care in the Time of Coronavirus

RenalTracker Team: June 22, 2020

Kidney Health and Coronavirus

The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak is wreaking havoc across populations all over the world. Regardless of race or gender, the virus can make anyone gravely ill especially those with weaker immune systems. People diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) are no exemption.

Although we may be living amongst a life-threatening disease, there’s no reason to worry. There are decisive steps people with kidney disease can take to protect themselves and minimize the risk of infection.

Table of Contents:

  • What is Coronavirus?
  • How is Covid-19 Spread?
  • What Are the Symptoms?

  • What’s the Current Covid-19 Situation in the U.S.?

  • How Does Covid-19 Affect the Kidneys?

  • Who’s at Risk?

  • Ways to Protect Yourself During the Pandemic

  • Tips to Stick to a Healthy Lifestyle While on Quarantine


What is Coronavirus?

“Coronavirus” is an umbrella term used to refer to a species of viruses that can cause upper-respiratory tract illnesses. The latest strain is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which causes the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). 

Covid-19 is a portmanteau of ‘corona (co),’ ‘virus (vi),’ and ‘disease (d).’ A virus that was never seen before in humans, this novel coronavirus was first discovered in December 2019 in Wuhan City in the province of Hubei, China. 

Covid-19 is believed to be ‘zoonotic,’ which means it can be transferred from animals to humans (in this case, bats to humans). 


How is Covid-19 Spread?

Further studies on other possible modes of transmission of the disease are still underway. But according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person can contract Covid-19 through close contact with an infected individual.

Specifically, the virus can be transmitted through:

  1. 1
    Contact with an infected person within a distance of 6 feet.
  2. 2
    Respiratory droplets coming out an infected person’s mouth when he sneezes, coughs, or talks.
  3. 3
    When contaminated droplets land in a person’s mouth or nose and the person inhales the droplets into his lungs.
  4. 4
    Touching objects or surfaces possibly contaminated with the virus and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes.

Health experts claim that some infected individuals may not experience symptoms throughout the course of an infection (known as asymptomatic cases). However, the World Health Organization (WHO) doesn’t have actual records of asymptomatic transmission as of yet.


What Are the Symptoms?

Based on the definition by the WHO, a person who has acute respiratory illness and is showing symptoms including mild to moderate fever, dry cough, and fatigue can become a suspected case of Covid-19.

These symptoms can manifest within 2 to 14 days since the exposure to the virus. However, not everyone diagnosed as positive for Covid-19 exhibits these symptoms (or have any symptoms at all).

Below are the known symptoms of coronavirus disease according to CDC (list doesn’t include possible symptoms):

  • Dry cough
  • Fever or chills
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Congestion or runny nose

If you or someone you know is experiencing these warning signs, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Breathing problems
  • Persistent chest pain or pressure
  • Difficulty waking or staying awake
  • Bluish face or lips


What’s the Current Covid-19 Situation in the U.S.?

As of June 10, 2020, the WHO has recorded more than 7 million cases and over 400,000 deaths across the globe. 

The U.S. tops the list of countries in America with the most number of reported cases, now reaching the 2 million mark and a death rate of 114,148. 

The number of recovery cases is 788,862. All of the 50 states have been afflicted by the disease, but New York has the highest number of active cases and deaths (followed by New Jersey and California).


How Does Covid-19 Affect the Kidneys?

The National Kidney Fund states that there’s no information yet that suggests how coronavirus disease may severely impact people with kidney disease. 

However, viruses can cause fatal illnesses to people with weaker immune systems, including transplant patients and people who are in dialysis. This is because fighting off infections can be difficult for compromised immune systems.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You need to continue with your regular check-ups if you’re at an advanced stage of kidney disease and are already advised to undergo dialysis treatments. Always follow safety precautions set by your healthcare provider.


Who’s at Risk?

Anyone with kidney disease and other underlying chronic medical conditions are at a moderate to high risk from Covid-19 infection. Below are other groups of people who may be at risk:

  • CKD patients
  • The eldery (aged 70 and older)
  • Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy 
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with a mild lung condition
  • People with heart disease (e.g. heat failure)
  • Diabetic patients
  • People with liver disease
  • Those who are in immune system medications
  • Individuals with condition affecting the brain or nerves (e.g. multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy)
  • Overweight/obese individuals (with a BMI of 40 or greater)

Ways to Protect Yourself During the Pandemic

Taking proactive steps to lower the risk of getting down with the disease is extremely important for everyone, both for people at a higher risk of infection and those who have no existing health conditions.

Here are CDC-recommended hygiene tips to protect yourself from infection:

  1. Wash your hands often. 
    • Use soap and warm water. Wash for at least 20 seconds.
    • Wash your hands right after returning home from a public place and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
    • If you can’t wash, rub a sanitizer (with 60% alcohol) all over your hands and wrists. Rub them together until they dry.
    • When in public places, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed or non-disinfected hands.
  2. As much as possible, avoid close contact. 
    • Keep away from people who are sick, are showing flu-like symptoms, or those who are at risk of infection (whether at home or in public places).
    • When outside, maintain a 6-feet (or about arms’ length) distance between yourself and other people. Keep in mind that some people may be walking around without symptoms, risking infection.
    • Avoid crowded places and gathering in groups. 
  3. Wear a mask when outside.
    • Everyone is strongly advised to cover their nose and mouth when they need to go out in public (e.g. to get groceries or pick up other necessities).
    • Always wear a mask if you suspect you may be infected to protect others.
    • Even with a mask on, keep distance with others. Wearing a face mask is no substitute to social distancing. 
  4. Cover your nose and mouth each time you cough and sneeze. 
    • This applies both when you’re at home and outside. When you need to cough/sneeze in a private setting where you’re not wearing a mask, cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief or tissue, then dispose of the tissue properly. You can also use the inside of your elbow.
    • Wash your hands or rub a sanitizer right away.
  5. Clean and disinfect at all times. 
    • Keep tables, countertops, desks, handles, doorknobs, keyboards, phones, toilets, sinks, and faucets thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

    • Wipe off any grime or dirt using soap/detergent before disinfection.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: Be extra mindful of your choice of cleaning products. According to research, certain household cleaners contain harsh chemicals that are harmful to people with CKD. Common examples of these chemicals include bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, dioxins, and biphenyl. Make sure to choose products that don’t contain these chemicals.

    Prolonged and cumulative exposure to these chemicals (in conjunction with age-related decline of kidney function and other comorbid conditions) can contribute to kidney damage, thus increasing the risk of CKD progression.

  6. Keep track of your health!

    • Be wary of common Covid-19 symptoms, including cough, fever, shortness of breath, and others.

    • Always monitor your health, especially if you’re regularly running errands, reporting to the office, or in public faces where it’s difficult to maintain distance from people.

    • Take your temperature if you start to notice symptoms.

    • Contact a healthcare provider immediately.

Stick to a Healthy Lifestyle While on Quarantine

Other than following the precautionary measures outlined above to stave off infection, it’s also vital to keep your body strong and healthy during this crisis. 

CKD-friendly food

This can be done by feeding your body with kidney-friendly foods, exercising regularly, and managing your mental and emotional well-being.

Consider the following tips:

1. Nourish your body with kidney-friendly foods.

Now, more than ever, is the ideal time to follow (or start) your renal diet. This diet is specially designed for people with Chronic Kidney Disease. In essence, it involves the mindful consumption of foods to lessen the amount of waste in the blood to prevent overworking the kidneys.

Following a renal diet plan tailored to your CKD stage can also potentially slow down the progression of your kidney disease. If you’re new to this concept, you can read more about the basics of renal dieting and how to get started here. Before you make any adjustments to your diet, consult with your nephrologist or renal dietitian first so they can recommend foods to include in your diet plan.

When making a grocery run, make sure to limit your trips to the grocery store by buying in bulk. Products you can buy in bulk include fruits, vegetables, beans, oats, spices, and oils. Consider availing grocery delivery or curbside pickup services.

2. Keep your mental and emotional health in check.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by a barrage of pandemic-related news and updates related to the outbreak everywhere on a daily basis. This can be a taxing time, especially for people who have a medical condition and are also wading through anxiety and depression.

Taking care of your inner well being is equally as important as caring for your physical health. Here are few tips to help you cope with your thoughts and emotions:

  • Step back from the news - Watching the news and scrolling through updates on social media can often lead to stress. It may be best to take a break from consuming news for some time to avoid overwhelming yourself.
  • Relax - Find relaxation in taking deep breaths, prayer, and meditation practices. These activities can clear up mental cobwebs, making you feel relaxed and at ease. Check out tons of free resources for guided meditations online.
  • Look for creative outlets - Perhaps you need a positive distraction to get your mind off things that stir up stress and anxiety. Find time for an activity or hobby that sparks your interest. This can be anything like cooking, gardening, making crafts, exercising, or taking a leisurely walk.
  • Talk it out - Having a strong support system is crucial in times like this. Try to open up about your sentiments or anything that bothers you to someone you trust. 

    Connect with your spouse, siblings, children, or your close friends. Catch up with them through any means possible (e.g. face-to-face conversation, chat, or video call). 

    Also, spend time with people who encourage and build you up. Steer clear those who only magnify the negatives. You’ll be surprised how spending time with the right people can lift your mood.

3. Stay active.

Engaging in physical activities provides a number of benefits for CKD patients. Exercising helps you maintain a healthy body weight, lowers blood sugar and blood pressure, reduces cholesterol levels, and optimizes heart and lung functions. Regular exercise also minimizes stress and energizes the body so you can take on the day.

If you’re keen to stay active in quarantine, here are ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine:

  • Carve out time for exercise (and stick to it).

  • Exercise in your yard or take a walk around your neighborhood (but observe social distancing).

  • Try guided workout videos/virtual exercises found on YouTube.

  • Play fun and engaging games with the family.

If you wish to have someone guide you in taking care of your kidney health during the Covid-19 pandemic, get in touch with our renal health coach. We’d be more than happy to assist you in leading a kidney-friendly lifestyle so you can maintain your kidney function for the long-term.