How to Travel with a Child on Hemodialysis

Two Parts:Before the TripDuring the Trip

Functioning like a normal family can be challenging when there is a child with a serious chronic disease like kidney failure. In order to live, many of these children depend on regular hemodialysis treatments. These treatments cannot be skipped without serious risk to the child's health. Fortunately, it has become much easier for most children receiving hemodialysis to travel safely. There are numerous dialysis centers with expertise in pediatric hemodialysis, both in the US and abroad, so hemodialysis treatment can continue while away from home.

Part 1
Before the Trip

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    Find out about any necessary travel vaccinations. Check very early on in the trip-planning process about whether any special vaccinations are required for your travel destination and whether your child can receive these. Don’t wait too long to do this or you may have to postpone your trip.
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    Identify pediatric hemodialysis centers near your destination. Find out if your pediatric nephrologist is familiar with any centers or pediatric nephrologists at your destination. Getting a recommendation from a doctor that you know and trust will make your feel more at ease.
    • Within the US, you can search online for pediatric hemodialysis centers. You can even search using specific criteria (such as pediatrics, in center hemodialysis, transient patients). Just go to the Nephron Information Center website and enter the zip code for your destination.[1]
    • Identifying suitable hemodialysis centers abroad can be a little more challenging. Most pediatric nephrologists subscribe to a worldwide network of colleagues. You can ask your doctor to post a query on the network in order to identify a recommended center and physician in your foreign destination.
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    Contact the dialysis center to schedule any appointments. Contact the dialysis center directly to ensure that they will be able to accommodate your child during your trip.
    • If there are specific dialysis scheduling needs during your trip, find out well ahead of time whether the dialysis center has appointments available. This is particularly important if you are visiting popular vacation areas during peak season.[2]
    • Also ask for the name and telephone number of a dialysis nurse or social worker contact at the center. You can then contact this person directly if your schedule changes or if an emergency arises during the trip.
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    Contact the dialysis center a week before the trip to confirm your arrangements. It is usually a good idea to touch base with your contact at the dialysis center at least a week before departing on your trip. Be sure that all of the requested and necessary information has been received. This usually includes a written medical summary and the most recent dialysis treatment run records. Also be sure to clarify any necessary details. For example you should:
    • Confirm the dialysis treatment schedule and usual duration of dialysis at this particular center.
    • Find out where you need to register once you get there and ask whether there is any additional information that you can provide ahead of time to make the registration process smoother.
    • Find out where you need to go and when to arrive for the first dialysis treatment.
    • If relevant, check if the center uses local anesthetic (e.g. lidocaine) for needle access.
    • Ask if patients are allowed to eat or drink during during dialysis.
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    Ensure that your medical insurance covers you while traveling. It's important to identify any potential problems with insurance coverage before you embark on you trip.
    • Be sure that you are covered by your primary and secondary insurer for transient dialysis.
    • Find out whether any upfront payments will be required at the dialysis center.
    • Ask if you will need a letter from your commercial insurer (if you have one) stating that they will cover your child's dialysis treatments while traveling. This is particularly important if you are traveling abroad.
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    Make any necessary arrangements for the flight. If you are traveling by plane, find out if it is possible to make special meal arrangements when you make your reservations. If not, make sure you bring any necessary meals or snacks with you.
    • Additionally, if your child requires any special assistance (such as a wheelchair, or extra leg room on board the plane) check that these needs can be accommodated.
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    Inform your child's transplant coordinator about the trip. If your child is on the transplant recipient list, be sure your transplant coordinator is aware of your travel plans and that he/she knows whether to change the listing status while you are away.

Part 2
During the Trip

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    Bring a copy of your child's medical records with you. While traveling, keep a duplicate copy of the medical records that were sent to the dialysis center with you at all times. This way, if they happened to lose your child's records, you will be able to provide them with a copy
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    Keep any necessary medications on you at all times. Make sure that you are stocked up on any medications your child will need while traveling.
    • Bring along a supply of medications that will last for the entire time away, with some extra in case anything unexpected happens. You should also carry extra prescriptions for these medications in the event that the medications get lost or you need to extend your trip.
    • Remember that if you are traveling by air, you should keep the medications in your carry-on. Lost baggage can otherwise be a disaster.
    • Be sure that your child's medical records also list your child’s current medication and doses.
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    Visit the dialysis center before any scheduled treatments. When you arrive at your destination, you can help reduce any anxiety your child might have about treatment at an unfamiliar place by visiting the dialysis unit on the day before the first scheduled treatment.
    • At this point, you can also familiarize yourself with where you can park, where you need to register and where your child will be receiving the dialysis. This will help to ensure that everything runs smoothly on the day.
    • You should also ask about contact procedures at the dialysis center in the event of an emergency. Take note of any important contact names or numbers and keep them with you at all times when away.


  • Be sure that the dialysis center has all of your contact information while you are traveling.
  • To help make the dialysis treatments as smooth as possible while traveling, be frank about any special needs or recurring problems during dialysis that your child might have.

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Categories: Travel Health | Childhood Health