Living with Sickle Cell Disease

If you or your child has sickle cell disease (SCD), you should learn as much as you can about the disease. Your health care providers are there to help you, and you should feel comfortable asking questions.

Pursue a Healthy Lifestyle

Like all people, you or your child should strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes:

  • A nourishing diet
  • Enough sleep
  • Regular physical activity

People with SCD often tire easily, so be careful to pace yourself and to avoid very strenuous activities.

Don’t smoke and try to avoid second-hand smoke. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation and drink extra water to avoid dehydration.

Prevent and Control Complications

Avoid situations that may set off a crisis. Extreme heat or cold, as well as abrupt changes in temperature, are often triggers. When swimming, ease into the pool rather than jumping right in.

Avoid overexertion and dehydration. Take time out to rest and drink plenty of fluids. 

Do not travel in an aircraft cabin that is unpressurized.

Take your medicines as your doctor prescribes. Get any medical and lab tests or immunizations that your doctor orders.

See a doctor right away if you have any of the following danger signs:

  • Fever
  • Stroke symptoms
  • Problems breathing
  • Symptoms of splenic enlargement
  • Sudden loss of vision
  • Symptoms of severe anemia

If your child attends daycare, preschool, or school, speak to his or her teacher about the disease. Teachers need to know what to watch for and how to accommodate your child. (See “Tips for Supporting Students with Sickle Cell Diseaseexternal link”.)

Get Ongoing Care

Make and keep regular appointments with your SCD doctor or medical team. These visits will help to reduce the number of acute problems that need immediate care. Avoid seeing your doctor only when you or your child has an urgent problem that needs care right away.

Your SCD medical team can help prevent complications and improve your quality of life.

Coping With Pain

Every person experiences pain differently. Work with your doctor to develop a pain management plan that works for you. This often includes over-the-counter medicines, as well as stronger medicines that you get with a prescription. 

You may find other methods that help your pain, such as:

  • A heating pad
  • A warm bath
  • A massage
  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Distracting and relaxing activities, such as listening to music, talking on the phone, or watching TV

Mental Health

Living with SCD can be very stressful. At times, you may feel sad or depressed. Talk to your doctor or SCD medical team if you or your child is having any emotional problems. Tell your doctor right away if you or your child is feeling very depressed. Some people find counseling or antidepressant medicines helpful.

You may find that speaking to a counselor or psychiatrist, or participating in a support group is helpful. When families and friends provide love and support to people with SCD, they can help to relieve stress and sadness. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what you need.



Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health.