One of the national health observances for the month of June is the awareness of sickle cell disease among people of all ages. Sickle Cell Disease, which is often referred to as SCD, is a disease present from birth among those affected by it. The disease is passed down via a parent’s genes. Check out our Blog below for more important information on SCD, how it affects children, symptoms, and how we can raise awareness.
How does SCD affect children?
According to Stanford Medicine, children with SCD produce an abnormal type of hemoglobin. A hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen to all parts of the body. With SCD, the body organs and tissues don’t receive enough oxygen. Healthy red blood cells with normal hemoglobin move safely through blood vessels while the ones with this type of irregular hemoglobin clump together and are unable to move through easily. Should they get stuck, which is a possibility, it can cause blockage and result in pain for the individual, as well as organ damage. Sickle cells will also die quicker than regular blood cells due to them getting stuck and clumped in the process. This results in less red blood cells overall, which causes anemia. The cells can also cause spleen damage, putting them at risk for serious infections. There are several different variations of the sickle cell gene. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about the specific form of sickle cell your child has, as some don’t cause symptoms or severe problems, while others do.
Causes and Symptoms
Children inherit sickle cell disease from birth. They are affected by sickle cell disease symptoms if they carry 2 sickle cell genes (1 from each parent). Children that only inherit 1 sickle cell gene are healthy and free of symptoms, however they are a carrier of the disease and may pass it down.
Children with SCD typically begin to show symptoms at around 5 months to 1 year of age. Common symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Yellowing of skin, eyes, mouth
- Arms, chest, and leg pain
Some organs that are commonly damaged include but are also not limited to:
- Multiple organ failure
Treatment and helping children live with SCD
Though you might not be able to entirely prevent your child from having complications of SCD, helping your child live a healthy lifestyle can reduce some of the problems. You can ensure your child has regular eye exams and gets stroke screening tests. Speaking with your child’s healthcare provider about making sure your child eats a healthy diet, gets adequate rest and sleep every night, and drinks plenty of fluids will also prove to be very helpful. Do your best to avoid things that may trigger a crisis for your child such as high altitudes or cold weather. Moral and emotional support could perhaps be the most important of all. Make sure to always be emotionally available for your child and give your best effort to allow them to believe, aspire, and dream like any other child in our society. Treatments for SCD include but are not limited to:
- Pain medicines
- Drinking plenty of water daily
- Blood transfusions
- Vaccines and antibiotics
- Folic acid
- Regular eye exams
Ways to observe SCD awareness in June
You can help spread word about SCD in a variety of ways. Donating to charities for SCD and assisting in the funding of research and facilities treating SCD is among the most popular methods. If not, donating blood can also be something you can contribute to the cause. Researching, learning, and spreading word about SCD via verbal or telecommunication platforms will always be effective as well. Though we take June to shine light on SCD, we can always make greater efforts to ensure we are supporting them in their battles throughout the calendar year.