Infections happen when germs get inside your body. There are many different types of infections that affect different parts of your body, including ear infections, lung infections, and stomach infections. One type of infection is a kidney infection. Kidney infections can be very serious. They can lead to being hospitalized and, if not treated, kidney failure or infections in other parts of the body.
Kidneys clean your blood. As they are cleaning your blood, your kidneys produce urine. Urine is made up of extra water and other waste that your body doesn’t need. The urine that your kidneys make goes to your bladder and then out of your body.
Kidney infections are caused by germs that come from outside or inside of your body. Often, germs that get into your urinary tract (the tubes where urine flows out of your body) can move into your kidneys and lead to a kidney infection.
If not treated, kidney infections can permanently damage the kidneys so that they cannot do their job correctly. Germs can also spread from your kidneys into your blood and cause infections in other parts of your body. Kidney infections can also lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
For all of these reasons, it is important for you to recognize the signs of kidney infections among individuals who you support and take steps to prevent kidney infections!
Because kidney infections often start out as urinary tract infections, people who get a lot of urinary tract infections are at a higher risk for kidney infections than other people. People at risk for urinary tract infections include:
Other people who are more likely than others to develop a kidney infection are:
As a direct support professional, you can look out for the symptoms of kidney and urinary tract infections among all of the individuals you support, but pay special attention to those who have any of the risk factors listed above.
There are many signs of kidney infections that you can look out for among the people you support. A person may have a kidney infection if they:
These are all signs that may point to a kidney infection, but not all people with kidney infections will have all of these symptoms; even if you notice just some of these symptoms don’t be afraid to let the doctor know.
Also, remember that some of the individuals who you support may not be able to tell you with words how they are feeling. By observing the people you support everyday, you may be able to notice changes in their behavior that could indicate kidney or urinary tract infections. For instance, you can notice if the person is going to the bathroom more than usual, what their urine smells and looks like, and if they seem to be experiencing pain while they urinate.
If you think that someone has a kidney or urinary tract infection, the best thing for you to do is to call the person’s doctor. When you call the doctor, be prepared to tell him or her:
By keeping a written record of the individual’s symptoms and behavior changes, you can be prepared to talk to the doctor.
You should also be prepared to let the doctor know about any other illnesses the person may have that could affect his or her kidney functions (such as diabetes) and if the person has a history of having other urinary tract or kidney infections, including a history of kidney stones or enlarged prostate.
The doctor may ask the person for a urine sample to send to the lab for testing. He or she may also take a blood sample from the person for testing. In serious cases, the doctor may need to take x-rays to see inside the person’s urinary tract.
As a direct support professional, you can prepare individuals you support for their appointment by letting them know what to expect when they see the doctor.
If the person does have a kidney or urinary tract infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Make sure to let the doctor know about any medications the person is allergic to, as well as what types of medications the person is already taking. By giving the doctor this information you can help to prevent medication errors and dangerous medication interactions.
In more serious cases, the person may need to stay in the hospital or may even need surgery.
As a direct support professional, the best thing you can do is to make sure that the individuals you support follow all of their doctor’s instructions.
*Before giving the individuals you support any over-the-counter medications, check with a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to make sure that the new medications are safe to take with any medications the individual is already taking. For people who live in Community Care Facilities, per Title 22 regulations, over-the-counter medications require a doctor’s prescription.
Since many kidney infections start out as urinary tract infections, one of the best ways to prevent kidney infections is to prevent urinary tract infections in the first place. You and individuals you support can prevent urinary tract infections by:
Also, if a person you support develops a urinary tract infection, make sure to encourage the individual to see a doctor and get his or her infection treated. By treating a urinary tract infection, you are helping to prevent kidney infections from developing later.
The DDS Safety Net (www.ddssafety.net) is a great source of information that you can share with individuals who you support. This month’s DDS Safety Net presentations can help you teach people about urinary tract infections, kidney infections, and taking antibiotics:
Also, be sure to check out the Safety Point Presentation from October:
The best way to learn more is by taking to your doctor. You can also check out these resources on the internet:
Last updated on June 10th, 2010