Protect your kidneys: know the Sick Day Rules

08 March 2018

This World Kidney Day, GPs in Havering are urging people who take certain medicines to stop them for a few days if they get sick, to avoid potentially harming their kidneys. 

Some common medicines – including tablets for diabetes and high blood pressure – can have side effects, including kidney injury, if taken when suffering from vomiting, fever or diarrhoea.

Local GPs are asking people to simply stop taking the affected medicines for a few days if they get these symptoms, to avoid putting themselves at risk.

Dr Maurice Sanomi, GP and Clinical Lead for Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “Many people are prescribed medication to help them manage long term health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, but some medicines can react badly if you become ill with vomiting, diarrhoea or a fever. 

“In some cases, continuing to take your medication when you have any of these symptoms can cause your kidneys to suddenly stop working properly, a condition known as acute kidney injury. The effects of this range from pain and discomfort to long term damage – known as chronic kidney disease.

“If you are taking one of the affected medicines and you experience vomiting, diarrhoea or a fever, you should stop taking it straight away, and just start it again as normal when you feel better.”

To help people remember this advice – known as the ‘Sick Day Rules’ – local pharmacists will be putting stickers on affected medicines, and GPs will be talking to their patients and giving out information cards.

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, located in the lower back, which remove toxins from our blood by turning them into urine. It is important to protect your kidneys, because if they stop working properly you may need kidney dialysis or even a transplant.

The affected medicines all fall into the following groups:

  • Anti-inflammatory tablets that are not steroid based, including Nurofen (ibuprofen)
  • Blood pressure lowering drugs (sometimes called ACE inhibitors or ARBs)
  • Diuretics (normally known as “water tablets”)
  • Diabetes drugs, including Metformin and Sulfonylurea
  • Trimethoprim (antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections).

Only the medicines named should be stopped on a sick day, and it is important to always start taking them again when your symptoms have cleared up.

For more information on the affected medicines read the acute kidney injury frequently asked questions, or talk to your GP, nurse or pharmacist.