Breaking News: More Kids are Developing Kidney Stones
Nearly 10 percent of all Americans are now affected by kidney stones—and contrary to myth, they’re not just older men with poor diets. “Women and children are the two fastest growing groups of patients,” says Dr. Katherine Hubert Chan, a pediatric urologist at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. Indeed, researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia recently looked at cases looked at cases between 1997 and 2012 and found that the risk of kidney stones during childhood doubled for boys and girls, while women experienced a 45 percent increase in lifetime risk. Fortunately, assures Dr. Hubert Chan, kidney stones are often preventable once you know the contributing factors.
Some scientists speculate that rising temperatures associated with climate change may be driving up the incidence of stones. Though more research is needed on that front, Dr. Hubert Chan notes that even routine seasonal heat can be problematic. “We do know that kidney stones are more common in the summer months,” she says. “This is likely related to dehydration, is a well-established risk factor for kidney stones.” In warm weather, she advises kids and adults to sip at least 8 cups of water a day.
Check the ingredients list of your favorite soft drink: Many brands (particularly darker-color sodas) are flavored with phosphoric acid, a tangy additive that may promote stone formation by reducing urinary citrate. In addition, “cola is rich in oxalate,” Dr. Hubert Chan explains. “Drinking cola on a regular basis has been linked to elevated levels of oxalate in the urine, which may further increase the risk.” Limit colas to special occasions only, she advises—no more than one serving per week or so.
Excess dietary sodium causes kidneys to excrete high levels of calcium, a building block of painful stones, Dr. Hubert Chan cautions. The main culprit isn’t the salt shaker, either—most sodium in the American diet comes from commercially prepared foods. To keep intake below the recommended max of 2,300 mg a day (kids and adults), read nutrition labels closely. Even not-too-salty foods such as sandwich bread, breakfast cereal and boxed cookies can be surprisingly high in sodium.
Finally, know the signs of a kidney stone. In patients of all sexes and ages, symptoms include severe back or abdominal pain, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and/or blood in the urine. Contact your doctor if you or your child develops such symptoms. If stones recur, your doctor can help you devise a more targeted plan for prevention. For patients in the Indianapolis area, Dr. Hubert Chan runs a monthly kidney stone clinic at Riley Hospital, where you can hear personalized advice from a team of specialists.