Summer Health and Safety Tips for Children with Sickle Cell Anemia
Abby Roth, Nurse Clinician provides the following tips for helping children with sickle cell anemia stay hydrated and healthy during the summer months.
1) Stay Hydrated
Children with sickle cell anemia require an increased amount of liquids and are at a higher risk for dehydration. This need increases during the hot summer months and when a child is physically active.
Children should drink more fluids such as water or Gatorade.
Encourage your child to carry a water bottle or go to a water fountain more often.
It is also recommended that children avoid soda or juice, which can dehydrate the body and lead to an acute pain episode.
2) Stay Cool
A sudden change in body temperature can cause a child with sickle cell to have an acute pain episode. It is recommended that children with sickle cell should avoid becoming over-heated during the summer.
Children should dress in light layers to better accommodate for temperature changes.
It is essential to wear a hat and sunscreen when outdoors.
Sudden changes in temperature, such as going from the hot outdoors to an air-conditioned home, can cause a sickle cell episode.
All children should learn to swim. For children with sickle cell, there are a few helpful tips when a child goes swimming.
Before swimming, children with sickle cell need to shower with luke-warm water prior to and immediately after swimming.
During, children with sickle cell should never swim in cold water.
After swimming, wrap child in a towel upon exiting the pool to prevent sudden changes in body temperature.
4) Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Children with sickle cell need to eat a well balanced and healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Children should also be encouraged to be physically active on a regular basis.
A healthy body decreases the likelihood of a sickle cell pain episode or infection.
Children with sickle cell can play all sports; good hydration and resting when tired are necessary when being physically active.
Children with sickle cell are often affected by asthma. It is recommended that children not be exposed to second hand smoke.
Adults who do smoke are encouraged to do so outdoors and away from children and others.
Remember: children learn from adult caregivers; setting a good example is an essential step in promoting health for the entire family.
5) Encourage Peer Relationships
Children with sickle cell may feel alone in their disease or have a difficult time meeting friends due to multiple hospital stays, etc. Camp is a great way for children to learn social skills and increase self-confidence. Children with sickle cell should be encouraged to attend camp. If your child is going to attend a camp or retreat, contact your sickle cell team to get a health form that includes your child's medications. This form will help the camp instructors know how to care for your child when they are away from home.
6) Take Steps to Control or Eliminate Complications
Children with sickle cell should continue to take their medications daily, which include Penicillin for children under 6 years of age. Some children also take Hydroxyurea. This medication needs to be taken daily in order to be most effective. When a child with sickle cell begins to experience pain, it is important to begin pain medication scheduled, push fluids, apply heat and promote rest.
7) Continue Preventive Care for Health Maintenance
Children with sickle cell anemia need to be up-to-date on their immunizations, including the Pneumococcal 23 variant vaccine. Children should continue to see their primary physician for routine check ups, vaccine administration and primary care concerns.