******SCD is an inherited disorder in which the Red blood cell is abnormally shaped, can get stuck in blood vessels and blocks them resulting in episodes of pain called a sickle cell crisis. Patients with sickle cell disease are referred to as sickle cell warriors. Warriors are prone to sickle cell crises once they undergo any form of stress.
Drink plenty of fluids; dehydration can increase the risk of a crisis, it is very important to take lots of water about 10-12 glasses daily (Drink more fluids if you are exercising or in hot weather).
This water drinking goes a long way to prevent crises because dehydration is a major trigger of sickling of the red cells thereby resulting in crises
Prevent Infections: common illnesses can be very serious for people with SCD. It is best to prevent infections by maintaining good hygiene.
🔸Maintaining good hygiene for a warrior is important
🔸Ensure your meals are prepared hygienically
🔸Keep your surroundings clean, prevent stagnant water
🔸Use mosquito net and mosquito repellants
*Any form of infection could be severe for warriors, as they are prone to infections*
Sleep: Always be well-rested. sleep deprivation causes stress which could result in a crisis. Try to find techniques that help you relax and calm.
We should not underestimate the power of a restful sleep
Like I mentioned earlier, any form of stress could trigger a sickle cell crisis.
*It is imperative we get enough sleep as lack of adequate sleep result in various biological changes that can cause the onset of crises*
Please, let us ensure we advise warriors to get adequate sleep.
Exercise: Regular moderate exercise (walking, cycling or as advised by your physician) helps to prevent a crisis. It is important to aim for about 2 hours of exercise per week. Always inform your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
I must stress that the exercise for a sickle cell warrior should be moderate. Over exerting yourself by undergoing severe exercise can lead to the onset of crises
*it is important that the exercise be mild to moderate with enough fluids taken*
Go on your exercise regimen with plenty of fluids.
Stay up-to-date on vaccines, such as the meningococcal disease (e.g., meningitis), influenza (e.g., flu), etc.
*All required vaccines have to be taken when due*
Our warriors get to a certain stage when a certain body organ that prevents susceptibility to certain infective organisms dies.
This results in the need to stay up to date with necessary vaccines as any infection could be fatal in a warrior.
Regular clinic visit is very crucial to maintaining optimal health.
Also, our daily medications should never be missed
All of the points above are crucial to living a healthy, stress-free life
*I know most of these things are not new to us. It is however imperative that we reinforce them. Those little acts can prevent you from having frequent crises*
- For a warrior that is a student, particularly in finals where stress is inevitable. At this point, how do he/she manage stress
A. That is a very important question and it would interest you to know that in most teaching hospitals, we have a spike in students who are warriors presenting in crises
The stress is inevitable actually but I always stress to all warriors I come across about the importance of proper time management. If you properly plan your time,
you would read effectively and get good rest, eat good food and in the end, you can prevent a crisis, or lessen some of the effects of crises over time.
Another very important thing is your support system.
Your friends/parents have a role to play. By properly helping you out with some activities and reducing the stress. This could be as simple as preparing your lunch so that it is crossed off your list of activities to get done and more time to read. It could also be as simple as preparing a hot water bath for you. Your support system goes a long way to help.
A helping hand frees you up from some side activities, allowing you to read and then getting to bed at the appropriate time
- One issue is some of the warriors do not open up to persons around them so most times, their friends do not know how to help.
A. This is very important. We need to find trustworthy people we can open up to. It goes a long way to help. We also need to be careful about the kind of people we open to.
There are people who will start hitting you with the “this again” tag at the start of any crisis. Those ones are not good support system, they’ll continually make you feel inadequate, which is not good for our mental health
*The DON’Ts *
Extremes of temperatures: too hot or cold weather could trigger crises and .it is important to avoid such.
We have also noticed an increasing rise in the crisis among warriors during cold weather and extremely hot weather
The hot weather gets you dehydrated rapidly thereby causing crises.
The cold weather causes tiny blood vessel constriction resulting in a crisis.
Those extremes of weathers should be avoided
You shouldn’t step out of your house during the cold weather without cold appropriate clothing
High altitudes: lack of oxygen or reduced oxygen concentration at high altitude could trigger crises.
Planes, on the other hand, should not be a problem because oxygen (though pressurized), is available in adequate amount.
Alcohol intake: can lead to dehydration
Smoking: This can trigger a condition called Acute Chest Syndrome, which is when red blood cells stick together and block oxygen from getting into your lungs
*A warrior are advised to avoid taking alcohol or smoking cigarette*
Heavy physical labor should be avoided as much as possible
I know most of us do not want to be incapacitated in any way but please, let us not outdo ourselves
We want to exert ourselves just as much as others but moderation should be employed
*My last couple of points will be to those who serve as support systems for warriors*
We are just as important and crucial. Some of the things we can do include.
Detect signs of crises (be sensitive to signs and symptoms)
provide support systems for them (when needed)
Help with Pain relief ( this could be as simple as helping to massage or application of heating pads)
Reach out to other support services (Social workers and mental health specialist)
encourage them to attend clinic visits as at when due and daily use of medications
*“No man is an island entirely of itself” (John Donne). Keep relevant people informed about your friend or child’s condition so they can be appropriately taken care of.*
It is also important to know that, no one has absolute control over how SCD affects the body but the pain/complications can be managed (or even reduced) by following the steps listed above.
Finally, stay strong and keep fighting. YOU ARE WARRIOR