Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia needs regular medical care by your caregiver and awareness by you when to seek medical care. Pain is a common problem in children with sickle cell disease. This usually starts at less than 1 year of age. Pain can occur nearly anywhere in the body, but most commonly happens in the extremities, back, chest, or belly (abdomen). Pain episodes can start suddenly or may follow an illness. These attacks can appear as decreased activity, loss of appetite, change in behavior, or simply complaints of pain.


  • Specialized blood and gene testing can help make this diagnosis early in the disease. Blood tests may then be done to watch blood levels.

  • Specialized brain scans are done when there are problems in the brain during a crisis.

  • Lung testing may be done later in the disease.


  • Maintain good hydration. Increase your child's fluid intake in hot weather and during exercise.

  • Avoid smoking around your child. Smoking lowers the oxygen in the blood and can cause sickling.

  • Control pain. Only give your child over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by their caregiver. Do not give aspirin to children because of the association with Reye's syndrome.

  • Keep regular health care checks to keep a proper red blood cell (hemoglobin) level. A moderate anemia level protects against sickling crises.

  • You or your child should receive all the same immunizations and care as the people around them.

  • Moms should breastfeed their babies if possible. Use formulas with iron added if breastfeeding is not possible. Additional iron should not be given unless there is a lack of it. People with SCD build up iron faster than normal. Give folic acid and additional vitamins as directed.

  • If you or your child has been prescribed antibiotics or other medications to prevent problems, give them as directed.

  • Summer camps are available for children with SCD. They may help young people deal with their disease. The camps introduce them to other children with the same condition.

  • Young people with SCD may become frustrated or angry at their disease. This can cause rebellion and refusal to follow medical care. Help groups or counseling may help with these problems.

  • Make sure your child wears a medical alert bracelet. When traveling, keep your medical information, caregiver's names, and the medications your child takes with you at all times.


  • You or your child feels dizzy or faint.

  • You or your child develops a new onset of abdominal pain, especially on the left side near the stomach area.

  • You or your child develops a persistent, often uncomfortable and painful penile erection. This is called priapism. Always check young boys for this. It is often embarrassing for them and they may not bring it to your attention. This is a medical emergency and needs immediate treatment. If this is not treated it will lead to impotence.

  • You or your child develops numbness in or has a hard time moving arms and legs.

  • You or your child has a hard time with speech.

  • You have a fever.

  • You or your child develops signs of infection (chills, lethargy, irritability, poor eating, vomiting). The younger the child, the more you should be concerned.

  • With fevers, do not give medications to lower the fever right away. This could cover up a problem that is developing. Notify your caregiver.

  • You or your child develops pain that is not helped with medicine.

  • You or your child develops shortness of breath, or is coughing up pus-like or bloody sputum.

  • You or your child develops any problems that are new and are causing you to worry.