Kidney disease & COVID-19

Does kidney disease put me at a higher risk?

People with kidney disease and other severe chronic medical conditions are at higher risk for more severe illness.

People on dialysis can have weaker immune systems, making it harder to fight infections. However, it is important to know that kidney patients need to continue with their regularly scheduled dialysis treatments and to take necessary precautions as recommended by their healthcare team.

People with a kidney transplant need to take anti-rejection medicines (also known as immunosuppressive medicines). These medicines work by keeping the immune system less active, which can make it harder to fight infections. It is important to keep taking these medicines. It is also important to wash hands, maintain good hygiene and follow the recommendations from their healthcare team.

Are there special precautions that someone with kidney disease should take?

Older adults and people with kidney disease or other severe chronic medical conditions seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness. If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, you should:

  • Stock up on supplies
  • Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others
  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact
  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid crowds as much as possible
  • During an outbreak in your area, stay home as much as possible.

Please remember that if you are on dialysis, you should not miss your treatments. Contact your clinic if you feel sick or have any questions or concerns.

If you have a kidney transplant, it is important to remember to keep taking your anti-rejection medicines, maintain good hygiene and follow the recommendations from your healthcare team. Contact your healthcare team with any questions or concerns.

You can learn more about how kidney patients can be prepared for COVID-19 with this NKF resource.

What about people with autoimmune diseases that can harm the kidneys?

With an autoimmune disease, the body’s own immune system attacks the body's own cells, tissues and organs. Many of these diseases, such as IgA and lupus, can also attack and harm the kidney.

People with an autoimmune disease may be prescribed certain immunosuppressive medicines by their healthcare professional (depending on the disease and other factors). These medicines work by keeping the immune system less active, which can make it harder for the body to fight infections.

Recommendations to reduce risk from COVID-19:

  • keep taking any medicine as prescribed
  • wash your hands
  • maintain good hygiene
  • follow recommendations from your healthcare team

You should contact your healthcare professional for any questions or concerns.

You can find information on general COVID-19 prevention at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are conducted so that researchers can learn better ways to prevent, screen for, diagnose, or treat diseases, such as chronic kidney failure and kidney cancer, and other health problems. Without them, we would not have new treatments or other advances in health and medicine.

Is now a good time to enroll in a clinical trial?

If you have not yet enrolled in a clinical trial, you should probably wait until the COVID-19 pandemic has come under control before signing up. Currently, study centers are working overtime to accommodate enrolled patients and maintain their current active status.

What should I do if I'm already enrolled in a clinical trial?

If you are already enrolled in a clinical trial, then you should contact your study site for instructions for visits, lab draws, and taking your study medicine. You should also let the study site know if you have experienced any new side effects and if you are taking any new medications. Some study centers may want you to continue coming in for your visits and study drug refills, while others may be changing to virtual site visits and ship study drugs to you at home.

Is it safe to go to my study site for an appointment?

Health officials are recommending that people with underlying medical conditions such chronic kidney failure or other kidney diseases to not be in close physical contact with other people. If you can avoid using public transportation (eg, trains, subways, buses, and airplanes) you should try to do so. Check with your study site regarding your options – many sites are providing travel, lodging, and dining reimbursements so study participants can use private cars, cabs, and rideshare vehicles (eg, Uber and Lyft), stay overnight in a hotel, and eat meals when onsite study visits are required.

Questions to ask your study site

  1. Instead of coming into the site for study visits, can I do them virtually or by telephone?
  2. What happens if I am quarantined? Will I still be able to participate in the trial?
  3. If concerns about the Coronavirus affect my ability to get to my study site, can I make alternate travel arrangements and be reimbursed? If so, who should I contact?
  4. Can I get my labs drawn at home?
  5. Can my study medication be sent to me?
  6. Is the study medication I am taking an immunosuppressant? If so, does that mean I am at increased risk for getting COVID-19? If the study medication is not an immunosuppressant, am I still at increased risk due to having an underlying medical condition?
  7. If I come onsite for a study visit, will you provide a face mask for me to wear?
  8. What disinfectant protocols are you following?
  9. Have there been any confirmed cases of people with COVID-19 at the study site? If so, can you give me some details?