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Sickle Cell Disease: Preventing Problems and Staying Healthy - Topic Overview

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 secondhand smoke 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 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.

Educate yourself

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 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 immune system strong. Your doctor or a registered dietitian may be a good source of information about proper diet.

Folic acid supplements may be prescribed to aid the bone marrow's production of red blood cells.1

Getting the right nutrition on a daily basis will help children who have sickle cell disease reach their full growth potential.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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