Lifestyle changes will not cure sickle cell disease. However, they may reduce the number and severity of sickle cell crises.
General Guidelines for Managing Sickle Cell Disease
- Eat a balanced diet, including folic acid supplements
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid excessive exercise
- Get lots of rest
- During a sickle cell crisis
- Rest in bed during sickle cell crisis
- Avoid emotional and physical stress
- Consider a support group
- Avoid things that can worsen the condition or lead to infection
Eat a Balanced Diet, Including Folic Acid Supplements
Healthy foods can help overall health. They can help the body fight infections. Folic acid is very important in making red blood cells. This may reduce the impact of anemia.
Drink Plenty of Water
Low levels of fluid in the body make it easier for blood cells to clump together. This can lead to sickle cell crisis. Drinking at least 8 full glasses of water each day can help.
Avoid Excessive Exercise
Physical activity helps overall health and energy. But strenuous activity can be harmful. It can lower the amount of oxygen that is available in the body. This can raise the risk of a sickle cell crisis. A person should talk to their doctor about what kind of exercise is best.
Get Lots of Rest
All bodies need time to rest and recover. Rest helps improve health and the body's ability to fight infection.
During a Sickle Cell Crisis
It is important to know when to call the doctor. Certain symptoms need medical care. This includes symptoms such as a fever of 101°F (38.5°C) or higher.
Rest in Bed
A sickle cell crisis lowers how much oxygen the body gets. Being active increases the need for oxygen. Combined, this can lower the oxygen for the organs even more. It can lead to lasting tissue damage.
Bed rest during a sickle cell crisis can reduce this risk.
Avoid Physical and Emotional Stress
Physical and emotional stress seem to trigger sickle cell crisis. It helps to avoid stress, when possible. Relaxation skills can also help.
Consider a Support Group
Long term diseases can be very stressful. Support groups can be very helpful. People can learn or share coping skills with others who also have sickle cell disease.
Avoid Things That Can Worsen the Condition or Lead to Infection
Things that can start or worsen a crisis are:
Salmonella is bacteria that can make people ill. It can be more harmful in people with sickle cell disease. The risk may be lowered by:
- Not keeping turtles, snakes, or lizards as pets
- Thoroughly cooking chicken and eggs before eating
Complications and treatments. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/sicklecell/treatments.html. Accessed January 29, 2021.
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Living with sickle cell disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sca/livingwith. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Pinto VM, Balocco M, et al. Sickle cell disease: a review for the internist. Intern Emerg Med. 2019 Oct;14(7):1051-1064.
Sickle cell disease. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sickle-cell-anemia.html. Accessed January 29, 2021.
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Sickle cell disease in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/sickle-cell-disease-in-infants-and-children Accessed March 4, 2021.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated: 3/4/2021