Unlike adults, children tend to experience kidney-related dysfunctions differently. Kidneys filter out wastes and surplus fluids from our bodies, and when they don’t work properly, subsequent problems may severely impact the growing bodies of children. Young children who experience early onset of chronic kidney disease (CKD) often encounter various congenital anomalies, including delays in growth and brain development.
That said, the best course of action to treat CKD in kids is surgery and a kidney transplant for children. Having a replacement kidney surgically implanted allows your child to no longer undergo regular dialysis, which could be disruptive to their daily lives. And thanks to advances in modern medicine, kidney transplants are now less risky. In 2019, it was found that the 10-year survival rate among children with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) who received a kidney replacement has significantly increased to 90 to 95 percent.
However, it should be noted that paediatric recipients of kidney transplants also face risks of graft failure, which could be exacerbated by poor post-surgery treatment. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to ensure adherence to post-transplant guidelines to prevent complications down the line. If you have a child who recently received a kidney transplant, here are a few care tips for keeping your child safe and healthy after surgery.
6 Tips on Caring for Your Child after Their Kidney Transplant:
Keep Track of Medicines and Clinic Dates
Upon your child’s return, you must keep tabs on the ongoing treatment and medicines they need. For one, your child must take medicines called immunosuppressants that keep your child’s body from rejecting the transplanted kidney. The immune system’s job is to attack anything it deems foreign, which may include the cells of the new kidney. Your child needs to take immunosuppressants every day to prevent organ rejection, so you need to remind your child not to miss out on their medicines. The dosage may be gradually reduced over time, depending on your doctor’s recommendations.
In addition to immunosuppressants, your child may need other medicines for minor ailments such as headaches or an upset stomach. You should also avoid giving over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to your child unless approved by your doctor.
Moreover, your child will require frequent clinic visits, especially in the first four weeks after surgery. These visits are meant to monitor your child’s vitals, including their weight and blood pressure. Furthermore, checkups will aid in the early detection of signs that your child’s body is rejecting the new kidney. Be sure to keep track of checkup dates to ensure proper monitoring of your child’s health.
Watch Out for Rejection Signs
As mentioned earlier, there may be instances when your child’s body rejects the transplanted organ. Be sure to watch out for warning signs such as a fast heartbeat, low urination, sudden weight gain, swelling, pain at the surgery site, fever, and flu-like symptoms such as chills and colds.
Other indicators of rejection include blood in urine, shortness of breath, tightening of the chest, blurry vision, diarrhoea, vomiting, or any signs of redness. If you see any of these symptoms in your child, call your doctor immediately.
Abide by Proper Dietary Needs and Fluid Intake
Usually, your doctor will inform you of the specific guidelines for post-surgery food and fluid intake. In general, it’s best to drink plenty of water and avoid frequent intake of fizzy or sweetened drinks like sodas and fruit juices.
To avoid adverse effects involving your child’s kidney, have your child follow a high-fibre and low-salt diet. A balanced diet typically includes lean meats, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid raw or undercooked dishes as they may contain food-borne illnesses. Additionally, your doctor may recommend avoiding certain fruits such as grapefruit, pomelo, and pomegranate, which could interfere with the effectiveness of your child’s anti-rejection medication.
On top of that, your child should avoid overeating, especially when involving foods with high fat content and low nutritional value such as fast food. Overall, a healthy diet will mitigate adverse effects such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and excess weight gain as your child’s body adjusts to the new organ.
Instil Good Hygiene Practices
Good personal hygiene will prevent harmful bacteria from proliferating in your child’s already delicate body. Remind your child to be mindful of their hygiene and follow basic practices such as frequent handwashing with soap and water to keep harmful germs and bacteria away.
Dental hygiene is another important factor in post-surgical care. Bacteria may populate in the mouth and cause infections, which could spread to the rest of your child’s body. Because your child takes immunosuppressants, these infections may not be eliminated properly. Make sure to schedule periodic visits to the dentist and coordinate with the medical professionals involved on the medicines your child may need to take, including antibiotics.
Ensure Adequate Skin Protection
Recipients of organ transplants are 10 to 40 percent more likely to develop skin cancer compared to the general population. Because transplant recipients have an immunosuppressive status, their bodies may accommodate the dangerous development of tumours. To prevent the onset of skin cancer, you should limit your child’s sun exposure during the hours when ultraviolet (UV) rays are at their peak, particularly between 10 AM and 3 PM.
High UV radiation from overexposure to sunlight damages the cells of our skin, which leads to the onset of cancerous growths. To mitigate these risks, you may want to buy high-SPF sunscreen and have your child wear hats and long-sleeved clothing to protect their skin from the sun’s rays.
Remind Them to Avoid Close Contact
Being around other people is fine, but getting close to others who may be harbouring illnesses is generally unsafe for your child. When going out with your child, it’s best to do so during less busy times to avoid close contact with others.
It’s also ideal to discourage family members or friends with transmittable ailments like colds and coughs from visiting your child during the first few months. Moreover, if you have a pet, it’s best that your child avoids kissing their pets or letting the animals lick them to avoid scratches and germ exposure.
In addition, it would be wise to keep your child away from school for at least six weeks after surgery. This will help your child adjust to their condition and avoid risking disease transmissions from their classmates. Aside from school, it would also be ideal if your child avoids swimming in public pools for at least six months after surgery.
Helping Your Child Adjust
A kidney transplant entails a lot of adjustments—for you, your child, and your family. Apart from physical changes, adopting lifestyle switches may impact your family mentally and emotionally. With that in mind, it’s important to orient everyone on the new situation and work through the changes as a family. In doing so, you are helping your child properly manage their condition as they navigate all the other aspects of growing up.