Guidelines for transplant patients

Staying out of the sun - The important message for all transplant patients going on holiday to sunny destinations is - ‘Avoid the sun and you can avoid skin cancer. Transplant patients are three times more likely than other people to get skin cancers after a transplant because of the immuno-suppressant drugs they need to take. However, skin cancer can be avoided and, if detected early, can be easily treated.

Using sunblocks -The effectiveness of a sunblock is rated by an SPF (sun protective factor) number. The number indicates how long you can stay in the sun before your skin burns. For example, if your skin would normally burn after 10 minutes out in the sun, an SPF of 15 means that you can stay in the sun fifteen times longer before burning than if you were wearing no sunscreen; in this case that would be 150 minutes. However, this information is supplied for the general public and because some transplant medication makes the skin extra sensitive to the sun, all transplant patients are advised to use an SPF factor of 25 or higher.

Other simple ways to avoid exposure to the harmful rays of the sun:

  • Protect your skin with suitable clothing. Clothing offers the advantages of even, non-sticky protection that you don’t have to remember to reapply. However, many summer-weight fabrics don’t give enough protection and fibres like cotton offer even less protection when wet. As the incidence of skin cancer is increasing globally it is now possible to buy protective clothing. Ask your pharmacist or high street chemist for information.
  • Wear a wide-brim hat to protect your eyes, ears, face, and the back of your neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV radiation. Check the label.
  • Avoid the midday sun - 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when UV radiation is strongest.
  • Remember that the sun’s rays can be reflected by snow, sand, water and even concrete.
  • Avoid using sun lamps.
  • Examine your skin regularly. If you find any unusual blemish, moles, or other marking on the skin, especially one that changes in size, shape or colour, see your doctor.

Avoiding infections while on holiday - Transplant immuno-suppressant drugs also reduce a patient’s ability to fight infections. Simple precautions include:

  • Avoid contact with people who have a cold, flu or any infectious disease such as chickenpox.
  • Buy bottled water abroad or use boiled water (especially in far eastern countries).
  • Avoid salads unless you have washed them and/or made them yourself, and avoid ice cubes, unless you have made them from bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cream from street vendors.
  • Make sure you have been appropriately vaccinated.
  • Avoid travelling to countries where the risk of catching an infection is high - MASTA and your GP can help advise you on this.

Vaccinations - Transplant patients should never be given ‘live’ vaccines. See your renal unit for advice on live vaccines and also make sure your GP is informed. Click here for more details on vaccinations.

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The National Kidney Federation cannot accept responsibility for information provided. The above is for guidance only.

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