Is there such a thing as sickle cell seasons? Does the weather have any adverse effects on patients with sickle cell disease? We already know that an individual with SCD can develop crises at any time - the pain can last for days or even weeks and is frequently severe enough to require hospitalization. However, these painful episodes associated with sickle cell can be more severe and occur more frequently in cold weather.
Medical studies evaluating the impact of cold exposure on SCD don't present a clear picture partly because hot weather and dehydration are also known triggers for crisis. In a previous post here, I talked about how to manage sickle cell in the winter by dressing warmly, staying hydrated, minimizing exposure to the cold and reducing stress. Hotter or warmer seasons (aka summer) also impact people with the condition and so managing sickle cell at this time will require slightly different measures including:
1. Staying hydrated - Always carry a bottle of water with you when going out since there is a risk of becoming dehydrated in the hot weather.
2. Take time to rest under shaded areas as often as possible when outside to avoid becoming overheated.
3. Always keep a light change of clothing layers handy if you will be outside for an extended period of time. For instance, when the temperature starts getting cooler in the evening, you can throw on a light sweater or jacket to allow your body adjust to the temperature change.
4. Avoid swimming in cold water - ensure the pool is warm before getting in, wear a wetsuit and have a warm towel to wrap round yourself when getting out.
5. When travelling by plane, always have your pain meds on board because high altitudes may cause crisis. Walk down the aisle at intervals to prevent leg blood clots if its going to be a long flight.
From the above, it is clear that there is such a thing as sickle cell seasons and these would primarily be the summer and winter months, i.e extremely hot and cold temperatures respectively. Taking all the necessary precautions to avoid crises episodes and of course always speaking with your doctor is crucial to successfully managing sickle cell during these seasons.
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