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Chronic Kidney Disease: Caring for Your Child

Chronic kidney disease is when the kidneys are damaged over time and can't work as well as they should to filter blood.

If your child has chronic kidney disease, you're likely to have many questions about what to expect and how you can help.

What Can Help Kids With Chronic Kidney Disease?

Dietary Changes

Changing what kids eat and drink is a big part of treating chronic kidney disease.

Salt and potassium can't easily be removed by the kidneys, so those might need to be limited. Salt is in many foods, so check food labels. Be careful of salt substitutes too. Many have potassium in them, which can cause problems for kids with kidney failure.

Dairy products need to be limited because they contain lots of phosphorus. Too much phosphorus can lead to calcium deposits in the eyes, heart, skin, and joints and may leach calcium from bones, which can increase your child's risk of broken bones. Cutting back on dairy foods can make it hard for kids to get enough calcium to support bone health and other body functions, especially those affecting growth.

Protein needs to be balanced because cutting back on protein-rich foods (such as meat, fish, or eggs) can make the filtering work of the kidneys easier and can sometimes delay the need for dialysis. But protein is needed for growth, so kids with kidney disease don’t have to completely avoid it (as is recommended for adult patients).

Liquids are encouraged during early kidney disease to help the kidneys keep working and prevent dehydration. But when kidney disease is more advanced, kids might need to limit liquids if their bodies have trouble getting rid of excess amounts.

Making sure kids get enough calories and nutrients can be a challenge. Adding extra carbohydrates and fats might help to increase calorie intake. Talk to your child's nephrologist or a dietitian. They can plan a diet that meets your child’s needs for calories and nutrients while protecting the kidneys and avoiding other problems.


Exercise will help your child’s overall health and wellness. Walking and strength training make bones and muscles stronger. Physical activity helps kids lower their blood pressure, keep a healthy weight, and get better sleep. Keep screen time to a minimum and encourage physical activity instead.

How Can I Support My Child Emotionally?

Besides the stress of having a chronic illness, your child is going through the changes that come with growing up, just like other kids. Treat them as a child first, which includes setting rules about behavior. Sometimes, those can be relaxed when your child is dealing with health challenges, but pick them up again after they feel better.

Encourage your child to express their feelings. Try to find teens and young adults who've dealt with chronic kidney disease who can talk with you and your child. Find support groups through your nephrologist or the National Kidney Foundation. It's important for kids to see that the symptoms of the disease can be managed and controlled and that they can live a full life.

When your child's health is stable, encourage them to participate as fully as possible in school and activities, which will help them develop their self-esteem.

During their dialysis treatments, they can do homework, read, work on art projects, play games, or find other positive ways to spend that time.

As your child gets older, help them take more responsibility for managing their health care. School-age kids should know the names of their medicines and how and when they take them. As they near adulthood, teens can help schedule their health care visits. Teens should also have time alone to speak with the doctor and other members of the health care team.

What Else Should I Know?

There's a lot to manage when your child has chronic kidney disease. Turn to the care team for help and support.

It also can help to find a kidney disease support group. The care team might be able to recommend one in your area. You also can find more information online at: