Holistic Care for Sickle Cell Patients

Staying healthy is the best way to limit the impact of sickle cell disease on your life. Health maintenance in sickle cell disease is focused on preventing infection, vaso-occlusive crisis, and stroke. Keep reading to learn more about the steps you can take to help control your disease.

Preventing Infections

Individuals with sickle cell disease are at higher risk of infection. The spleen is a vital organ which helps fight infection. Due to repeated vaso-occlusion in the tissue of the spleen, this organ either does not work correctly or stops working (functional asplenia). It is important to take steps to avoid infection.

Immunizations

Immunizations are an essential way to prevent infection. Individuals with sickle cell disease are at increased risk for infectious organisms, such as pneumococcus, meningococcus, and Haemophilus influenza. Some immunizations are recommended. Your healthcare provider will discuss the vaccines needed at every life stage.

Penicillin

Penicillin, in addition to immunizations, is an important part of pneumococcal infection prevention in sickle cell disease.

Antibiotic prophylaxis (taking medication every day even when feeling well) with penicillin has been shown to be effective in preventing life-threatening pneumococcal infections in children with sickle cell disease between age two months and five years. The usual dose of oral penicillin is 125 mg twice daily until age three years, then 250 mg twice daily.

For penicillin-allergic patients, use erythromycin 250 mg twice daily. Amoxicillin is not a good choice as it has not been studied to see effectiveness at preventing infection in sickle cell disease; it causes more side effects and puts patients at increased risk for development of resistant organisms.

Bone Marrow Transplant

A bone marrow transplant is currently the only cure for sickle cell disease. Red blood cells are made in the bone marrow. Transplanting a donor’s bone marrow will allow normal red blood cells to be produced.

There are complications related to the bone marrow transplant, so the decision to undergo this therapy requires careful consideration. Learn more about bone marrow transplants by visiting the Sickle Transplant Alliance for Research website.

Hydration

Individuals with sickle cell should drink enough fluids to avoid dehydration and decrease sickling of the red blood cells. The increased fluids will help the blood carry the red blood cells through blood vessels. The amount of fluid should be increased during hot weather, exercise or illness.