Traveling tips for people on dialysis

Dialysis is an ongoing treatment for patients with end-stage kidney disease. This procedure filters waste from the blood when the kidneys can’t, preventing the buildup of waste in the body.

Dialysis must be done three times a week and takes about four hours each time, so patients have to adjust their lifestyles to accommodate this time-consuming treatment.

For patients that travel frequently or simply want to take a vacation, dialysis can be even more difficult. Luckily, with careful planning and coordination, you can still have the vacation of a lifetime while maintaining your health.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

Planning Your Trip

You should begin preparing about six to eight weeks before your trip. Follow these three steps to help you start the planning process.

Talk to your doctor

Before doing anything else, you need to talk to your doctor about the possibility of traveling. He or she will work with you to determine if you are healthy and stable enough to travel.

If you are cleared by your doctor, then it’s time for the fun part – choosing your destination.

Find a dialysis center away from home

Once you decide where you will be traveling, you’ll need to find a dialysis center that will accept transient patients. A transient patient is someone who receives dialysis treatment away from home for a temporary amount of time.

Work with your center’s social worker or patient travel coordinator to find another center that will treat you. Then get in contact with that center to make sure they can see you on the dates you’ll need treatment. If you are taking a cruise, some ships have kidney doctors on hand who can provide dialysis treatments, so check with the cruise staff.

If you are treated with peritoneal dialysis, reach out to the company that provides your supplies. They may be able to ship supplies to your destination so you are ready to continue dialysis when you arrive.

Compile necessary information

Most dialysis centers need certain information before they will treat new patients. For them to safely provide dialysis treatment, make sure you have the following:

  • Your name and other basic information.
  • Dates you need treatment.
  • Medical history and recent physical exam report.
  • Any recent lab results.
  • Recent EKG.
  • Recent chest x-ray.
  • Your dialysis prescription and three to five treatment records.
  • Dialysis access type.
  • Special needs or dialysis requirements.
  • General health information.
  • Insurance information.
  • Where you will be staying in the area.
  • List of medications.

Take it Easy on Vacation

After all the extensive planning, you may want to squeeze in every opportunity you can but be careful not to overdo it. Give yourself plenty of time for each activity so you don’t strain your body.

Many travelers replace their healthy diet with unique food and location-specific dining experiences. While that’s potentially unhealthy, even for the average tourist, it can be particularly dangerous for someone on dialysis.

Before ordering the local special, make sure you’re aware of the potassium and salt content. Review menus online beforehand so you know where the best places are for you to eat.

Keeping an eye on your activity level and diet will help you stay healthy while away from home.

Active Kidney Transplant Waiting List

If you’re an active candidate on a kidney transplant waiting list, there are a few more things to be aware of. It’s a good idea to talk to your transplant coordinator before choosing your destination because how far you go determines if you can remain active on the waiting list.

To stay active on the list, find out the maximum distance you can travel while remaining active before you choose your destination. Make sure your coordinator has the correct phone numbers to contact you when you’re away in the event that a kidney becomes available for you.

With careful planning and collaboration with your doctors, you can have the vacation of a lifetime, even on dialysis.

About Transplant Services

For more than four decades, UPMC Transplant Services has been a leader in organ transplantation. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, making UPMC one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and take on some of the most challenging cases. Through research, we have developed new therapies that provide our patients better outcomes — so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions. Above all, we are committed to providing compassionate, complete care that can change – and save – our patients’ lives. Visit our website to find a provider near you.