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Wednesday, 22 September 2021 11.58 PM IST

Know your kid’s kidneys

kidney

The world has celebrated World Kidney day (WKD) and March has been essentially described as being The World Kidney Month. If we look back at its inception, the first theme of the aforementioned WKD was “Are your kidneys Ok?” Bearing this in mind, a very common question that parents direct towards their primary physician is “Are my child’s kidneys ok?” Very often, queries are a result of a lack of understanding over what essentially constitutes kidney disease or what can be done to prevent or treat any diagnosed kidney condition.


In this regard, let us answer some of the common queries posed by parents and hopefully, allay any fears.


What role do the kidneys play?
Our kidneys can be thought of as being made up of millions of miniature filtering units called nephrons. Their main function is the maintenance of salt-water balance and also help regulate blood pressure and the red blood cells, while also regulating the excretion of waste products as urine.

Can kid’s kidneys get affected? Isn’t it only seen among adults?
This is a common question faced by practitioners. The important fact to realize is that, while children can have kidney associated problems, many of them are treatable. The many causes include birth defects, infection, reflux of urine, hereditary disorders, stones or even passing blood in urine or frothy urine. It is also imperative to understand the need for regular follow up, among those diagnosed, so as to enable adequate surveillance for related complications or worsening of the primary concern.

What are the symptoms of kidney disease among children?
Early kidney disease may not show any significant signs or symptoms and may often go unnoticed. Children may present with mild swelling around the eyes and feet, blood in urine or even pain while passing urine or passing foul smelling urine. Other common abnormalities for parents to note, are abnormal urinary stream, reduced urine or even passing large volumes of urine. Many other signs and symptoms are difficult to observe and require mention, such as fatigue, loss of appetite, poor growth, paleness or even recurrent headache, abdominal pain and blurry vision.

Who are the children who need proper follow up?
Apart from the children who have any of the above mentioned concerns, there are other scenarios where constant vigilance and follow up is mandatory. These include children born premature, those who have had extended Pediatric/ Neonatal intensive care, those who have had abnormal antenatal scans (pertaining to the kidneys), children who have had cancer or on chemotherapy and even those children who have family members with kidney disorders of any kind, especially if the affliction was at a young age.

Can children have high blood pressures?
Yes, children can have hypertension, or elevation of blood pressures above the normal for age. This has become a common narrative of late, primarily because of the twin concerns related to obesity and lack of physical activity. It can be extremely dangerous for children, as it may also present as seizures. The difficulty, however, lies in recognition of signs and symptoms related to hypertension. They often present with headache, fatigue, poor sleep, poor scholastic performance, blurry vision or sometimes, with no recognizable symptoms at all. It is therefore important to recognize the at-risk children, who may include premature born children, children with abnormalities of the kidney or heart detected at birth, those who are obese, and those who are on any medications that may cause elevation of blood pressures.

What can parents and caregivers do to promote good kidney health?
The importance of a healthy life-style simply cannot be ignored. This holds true for both parents and their children, as children often mimic what their parents do.

The important facets to remember are as follows
1. Get regular exercise or outdoor play:
It is time to ditch the phones and encourage exercise or any pattern of play that can engage your child and stimulate healthy physical activity. Parents may also have to try new things out to engage children, as they get older and hence, adapt to new preferences.

2. Drink lots of water:
It is important to drink lots of fluids, especially water and limit the intake of sugary drinks and caffeinated products. When your child is thirsty, give water rather than a fruit beverage.

3. Reduce excess salt and sugars in your diet:
We all know this and yet, most people conform to the contrary. Salt contains sodium, and while sodium is essential for life, it has potential hazards when consumed in excess as it results in elevation of blood pressures. The processed foods we buy from our common supermarkets are all high on salt. Next time just spare a minute and read the labels depicting the content and prepare to be surprised.

4. Eat well:
It has been stressed before and there’s simply nothing like a balanced diet- rich in fruits, vegetables and dairies and short on processed food. It does wonders for your overall health and well-being.

5. Avoid over the counter medications:
We are so used to taking medications and pills without adequate prescription. What must be realized however, is that many of the medications (especially painkillers) we procure have adverse effects on our kidneys as well. Avoid them where they can be avoided and where they are consumed, make sure it is after proper prescription. Importantly, read the labels.

6. Get regular evaluations done:
If your child has any of the signs or symptoms described, it is important to arrange a visit to your doctor. Arrange regular check-ups if necessary and be punctual in the follow-up.

As a sign off note, adhere to all these described above and thereby, let your child have healthy kidneys for life.

Dr Prijo Philip
Paediatric Nephrologist
KIMSHEALTH
Thiruvananthapuram

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