Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited chronic illness which results in anemia (low blood counts) episodes of pain and increased susceptibility to infections. Any complication, if severe or untreated can be life threatening. Immediate treatment at a hospital or sickle cell center is required under these circumstances.
Classroom and workplace guides
- Sickle cell patients may be absent because of severe pain episodes caused by the blockage of blood flow to body organs or bones. These may require treatment in a hospital setting.
- Make up work for students should be provided to keep the student current with assignments. A hospital or homebased teacher may be required for prolonged complications.
- Pain episodes may be prevented by allowing the individual to keep well hydrated with water. Do not limit access to water as their requirements are increased. This will necessitate frequent bathroom breaks also as their kidneys can not retain water as well. Let the individual keep a water bottle with them or allow frequent water breaks.
- Pain episodes may also be prevented by not allowing the individual to become over heated or exposed to cold temperatures.
- Because of their anemia, individuals with sickle cell may tire before others and a rest period may be appropriate. Encourage gym and sports participation but allow the person to stop without undue attention.
- Sickle cell disease does not affect one’s intelligence, but various factors of this lifelong illness may impair academic performance. These should be identified and addressed as they would for any child. Academic performance is important as the life expectancy for those with sickle cell is now up in the forth and fifth decade. Those with sickle cell can become professionals like doctors, engineers, and lawyers as well as anyone.
- Sickle cell patients may have a yellow tint to their eyes because of the anemia, this is not usually a liver problem. They also may have a shorter stature and delayed puberty.
- Those with sickle cell should be treated as normal as possible with an awareness that they may have intermittent episodes of pain, infection or fatigue that can be treated and sometimes prevented though adequate water intake, avoiding temperature extremes and over doing it.
- Learn about sickle cell and understand the challenges that may be faced. Have a plan of action with the individual to do what you can to keep them productive and complication free.
Medical attention is needed when:
- The individual should seek medical attention if the following occurs: fever, headache, chest pain, abdominal pain, numbness or weakness. A mild pain episode may be managed with increased fluid intake and a non-narcotic pain pill like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- What You Can Do
- Invite a speaker from your local sickle cell foundation or clinic to educate the entire class or staff about sickle cell.
- Become involved in public awareness events, like walks, fun runs, kids camp and fund raisers.
- Encourage blood donations and blood drives in your community, many with sickle cell need transfusions to prevent childhood strokes and other complications.
- Support sickle cell research to provide new treatments.
- Support sickle cell patients to be the best they can be.
Great Resources for Learning More
- Read: What is Sickle Cell
- Web links for students and teachers
- Take the Sickle Cell Tutorial in the Power Point section
- Read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Sickle Cell Disease: Information For School Personnel – A free online book for school nurses, teachers and counselors from the New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services Division of Family Services Special Child, Adult and Early Intervention Services at http://www.state.nj.us/health/fhs/sicklecell/index.html – For a free copy contact:
Special Child, Adult and Early Intervention Services
New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services
P.O. Box 364
Trenton, New Jersey, 08625-0364
Fax (609) 292-3580
- CDC-Genetic Diseases – Sickle Cell Page – An excellent review of the chromosomal aspects of sickle cell, the US prevalence by state, and complication rates at: http://www.cdc.gov/genetics/hugenet/reviews/sickle.htm