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Sickle Cell Anemia In Children
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Sickle cell anemia is a disease that causes your child's body to break down too many red blood cells (RBCs). RBCs carry oxygen to all the organs and tissues. Sickle cell anemia is one type of sickle cell disease. The disease causes RBCs to be sickle (crescent) shaped. Your child's risk increases if both his parents have the gene for sickle cell anemia. Your child's healthcare provider can confirm your child has sickle cell anemia from the shape of your RBCs.
Call 911 for any of the following:
- Your child has a cough , shortness of breath, or chest pain.
- Your child has a new, different, or more severe headache.
- Your male child's penis stays erect for 2 hours.
- Your child says that he cannot see out of one or both eyes.
- Your child is confused, has problems speaking, or has weakness or numbness in his arm, leg, or face.
Seek care immediately if:
- Your child is sleepy, pale, and his stomach is swollen.
- Your child is not acting like himself, he has a seizure, or he faints.
- Your child's pain does not decrease after you give him pain medicine.
- Your child tells you that he cannot cope with his pain or the disease, or that he wants to die.
Contact your child's healthcare provider if:
- Your child has a fever.
- Your child has a fever, or cold, or the flu.
- You see blood in your child's urine.
- Your child has new symptoms.
- Your child is constipated or has diarrhea.
- Your child has changes in his vision.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
Your child may need any of the following:
- Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to give this medicine safely. Medicines may also be given to decrease sickling of your child's RBCs or to treat or prevent a bacterial infection.
- NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
- Acetaminophen decreases your child's pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
- Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
- Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Medical alert identification:
Have your child wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that says he has sickle cell anemia. Ask your child's healthcare provider where to get these items.
Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:
Your child may need ongoing screening for conditions that can develop because of sickle cell anemia. Examples include kidney disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), retinopathy (eye problems), and problems with his lungs. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Help your child manage pain:
- Monitor your child for signs of pain. Watch for redness or swelling in his hands or feet. If he is too young to talk, watch his face and look for other signs of pain. If he is old enough to talk, ask him where he feels the pain and how bad it is. Have him use a pain scale to show you how much pain he feels.
- Apply heat to areas of pain. Use a heating pad or place your child in a warm bath. Do this for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed by your child's healthcare provider. Heat can help decrease your child's pain.
- Massage areas where your child feels pain. This can help decrease pain and may help him relax.
- Help your child balance rest and exercise. Have him rest during a sickle cell crisis. Over time, he can increase his activity to a moderate amount. Activity may help decrease pain. Ask your child's healthcare provider which activities are safe for your child. He may need to avoid activities that increase his risk for injury, such as football.
Help prevent a sickle cell crisis in your child:
- Give your child vitamins and minerals as directed. Folic acid can help prevent blood vessel problems that can occur with sickle cell anemia. Zinc may decrease how often your child has pain.
- Give your child liquids as directed. Dehydration can increase his risk for a sickle cell crisis. Ask how much liquid he should drink each day and which liquids are best for him.
- Keep your child out of the cold. Do not let him go from a warm place to a cold place quickly. Keep him warm in the winter. Do not let him go swimming in cold water.
- Ask about vaccinations your child needs. Vaccinations can help prevent a viral infection that may lead to a sickle cell crisis. Take him to get a flu shot every year as directed. He may also need a pneumonia vaccine every 5 years.
- Talk to caregivers, teachers, and others in your child's school. Tell them that your child has sickle cell anemia. Teach them the signs and symptoms of a crisis, acute chest syndrome, and infection. Teach them what to do if they see any signs or symptoms of these problems.
- Talk to your child about harmful behaviors. Tell your child not to smoke or be around secondhand smoke. Tell him not to drink alcohol. Smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol increases his risk for a sickle cell crisis.
© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.
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.