What you should know about chronic kidney disease in children

March 21, 2017 Sonal Avasare, MD


Over the past 20 years, chronic kidney disease, or CKD, in children has been gradually rising. This has made it increasingly important for parents to watch for signs of kidney disease and help kids maintain a healthy lifestyle. Thankfully, there are now ways to slow the progression of renal disease and help prevent other complications.

A healthy body has two kidneys. They act as filters for the bloodstream, removing waste and extra fluids. If the kidneys are damaged, they may not work properly or efficiently. This condition is called chronic kidney disease.

If CKD is not recognized and treated, it can worsen with time and may lead to kidney failure. 

Risk factors

There are a number of risk factors that can lead to CKD. Your child may be more likely to develop the disease if he or she has any of the following:

  • Congenital defects of one or both kidneys, including having only one kidney
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Recurrent kidney infections
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Protein or blood in the urine
  • Diabetes


Early detection is key to getting treatment that can help slow the progression of kidney disease. If your child develops any of the following symptoms, he or she should be seen immediately by the child’s doctor for evaluation and possible referral to a pediatric nephrologist:

  • Swelling – particularly around the eyes, feet and ankles
  • Poor growth 
  • Persistent nausea, vomiting or decreased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • New onset of severe headaches, which may indicate high blood pressure

Tips to maintain good health

If your child has CKD or any risk factors, here are ways to prevent kidney damage and maintain good health:

  • If your child has risk factors, ask your child’s doctor to check a morning urine sample for protein elevation.
  • Starting at age 3, check your child’s blood pressure annually. This is the current recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics for all children.
  • Begin early treatment if your child develops high blood pressure. Among young children, the range for normal blood pressure will depend on the child’s gender, age and height. 
  • Avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers (NSAIDs), including aspirin and ibuprofen.
  • Watch your child’s diet. Do not overdo animal protein, and avoid protein supplements and foods high in salt.
  • Teach your child to eat a variety of healthy foods, including fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Your child may be referred to a pediatric nephrologist, who specializes in childhood kidney, urinary and bladder problems. A pediatric nephrologist can provide specific treatment and medical guidance based on your child’s risk factors and symptoms.

If you need help finding a doctor for your child, contact Swedish Pediatrics at 1-800-793-3474. If the pediatrician refers you for specialty care, Swedish has you covered! 

You can learn more about kidney disease and how it affects children by reading information provided by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.


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