Sickle Cell Disease: Preventing Problems and Staying Healthy
Home treatment for Reference sickle cell disease Opens New Window includes steps you can take not only to control pain symptoms but also to prevent some of the complications caused by the disease. These complications include painful Reference sickle cell crises Opens New Window.
Have a pain management plan
If you and your doctor have developed a pain management plan for home treatment of symptoms, be sure to follow your plan.
For more information, see Reference Sickle Cell Disease: Pain Management.
Prevent severe childhood infection
Give your child with sickle cell disease regular doses of a prescribed Reference antibiotic Opens New Window until age 5.
Prevent adult infection
Check your Reference immunization schedule and keep your immunizations up to date..
Prevent vision problems
Get routine eye exams as a child and as an adult. Early detection can help prevent vision problems.
For more information, see Reference Sickle Cell Disease: Vision Problems.
Drink water and other fluids. Drink enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. Drink extra fluids before, during, and after exertion and when in the heat. Drink plenty of fluid if you have a fever or infection. Children should keep a water bottle with them during school, play, and outings.
Limit alcohol. Alcohol use can lead to Reference dehydration Opens New Window.
Exercise with care
If you exercise strenuously, rest when you feel tired and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Dehydration and reduced oxygen levels in a person's blood resulting from strenuous exercise may cause red blood cells to sickle.
Children with sickle cell disease can usually exercise and play normally if they:
- Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise. Dehydration can cause cells to sickle.
- Get regular rest breaks during vigorous exercise.
- Stay warm. Exposure to cold air, wind, and water can trigger a sickle cell crisis. Dress children in warm layers of clothing for cold-weather activities. Avoid swimming and playing in cold water.
Prevent problems at high altitude or during air travel
High altitudes. The air at high altitudes, such as in an unpressurized airplane or in the mountains at altitudes greater than 5,000 ft (1,524 m), has less oxygen than at sea level. The lack of oxygen can cause cells to sickle. If you spend time at high altitudes, drink plenty of water and fluids to prevent dehydration.
Air travel. Large passenger airplanes are pressurized. But a person with sickle cell disease may have a sickling problem even when flying in a pressurized airplane. Most people won't have problems if they are flying only for a short time (less than 4 to 6 hours) and drink plenty of fluids during the flight.
Don't smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke
Smoking and Reference secondhand smoke Opens New Window reduce the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream.
Manage and reduce stress
Stress may cause a sickle cell crisis.
For tips on reducing stress, see the topic Reference Stress Management.
Get plenty of rest and sleep
To prevent fatigue, rest when you feel tired.
Stay warm in cold weather
Exposure to cold air, wind, and water may cause a painful event by triggering red blood cell sickling in exposed areas of the body.
Dress warmly in cold weather. Dress in layers to avoid sudden temperature change. When possible, avoid situations where you might become cold.
Learn to recognize serious symptoms. Partner with your doctor, using your experience with the disease and your doctor's expertise. Make a plan for how to treat pain at home and when to seek medical care for severe pain and symptoms. Know Reference when to call your doctor or when you need emergency help.
Learn about proper diet and dietary supplements
A balanced diet helps keep the body's Reference immune system Opens New Window strong. Your doctor or a nutritionist may be a good source of information about proper diet.
Getting the right nutrition on a daily basis will help children who have sickle cell disease reach their full growth potential.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 1, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Martin Steinberg, MD - Hematology