Sickle Cell Anemia


Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disease that causes your body to break down too many red blood cells (RBCs). RBCs carry oxygen to all the organs and tissues of your body. You get sickle cell anemia if both of your parents have the gene for sickle cell anemia. Your caregiver can confirm you have sickle cell anemia from the shape of your RBCs.



  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.

    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.

    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.

    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.

  • Hydroxyurea: This medicine can help your body make red blood cells that are less likely to form a sickle shape. This may help decrease your pain.

  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Medical alert identification:

Wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that says you have sickle cell anemia. Ask your primary healthcare provider where to get medical alert identification.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Manage your sickle cell anemia:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods: This may help you have more energy and heal faster. Healthy foods include fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meat, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.

  • Vitamins and minerals: You may need to take a vitamin called folic acid, and a mineral called zinc. Folic acid can help prevent blood vessel problems that can come with sickle cell anemia. Zinc may decrease how often you have pain.

  • Drink liquids as directed: Ask your primary healthcare provider what amount is best for you. For most people, good liquids to drink are water, juice, and milk.

  • Get vaccinated: Vaccinations can help prevent the infections that may lead to a sickle cell crisis. You should get a flu shot every year. You may need a vaccine to protect you from a virus called hepatitis B. Ask about other vaccinations you should have.

  • Balance rest and exercise: Rest during a sickle cell crisis. Over time, increase your activity to a moderate amount. Exercise regularly. Avoid exercise or activities that can cause injury, such as football. Talk to your primary healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.

  • Avoid cold: Do not go quickly from a warm place to a cold place. Do not go swimming in cold water. Stay warm in the winter.

For support and more information:

  • Sickle Cell Disease Association Of America
    231 East Baltimore St., Suite 800
    Baltimore , MD 21202
    Phone: 1- 410 - 528-1555
    Phone: 1- 800 - 421-8453
    Web Address:

Contact your primary healthcare provider if:

  • You have a new or different headache.

  • You have new pain in any part of your body.

  • You are more tired than usual during the day.

  • You see blood in your urine.

  • You are short of breath, even when you rest.

  • You are constipated or have diarrhea.

  • Your eyesight has changed in one or both eyes.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You feel like you can no longer cope with your pain, or feel like harming yourself.

  • You cannot think clearly or feel like you are going to pass out.

  • You have abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

  • You start to lose vision in one or both eyes.

  • You have new weakness or numbness in your arm, leg, or face.

  • Your urine is dark, or you are urinating less than usual or not at all.

  • You have a new cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Sickle Cell Anemia (Discharge Care)