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How to Support Someone With Sickle Cell Disease

If you have a classmate, friend, or family member who has sickle cell disease, you may wonder how you can help. Knowing a little about the condition will help you find ways to be supportive.

What Is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle cell disease is a health problem that makes red blood cells become C-shaped or curved instead of round. The curved cells can get stuck and block small blood vessels. Blood can't flow normally, which can lead to pain and organ damage. People with sickle cell disease need lifelong medical care.

Sickle cell disease gets passed down in families. This means that people who have it got it from genes they inherited from their parents.

How Can I Help Someone Deal With Sickle Cell Disease?

People with sickle cell disease may feel tired often, have pain, or have trouble fighting infections. They might miss school, work, or other activities and need to go to the hospital for treatments.

Here are some ways to show that you care:

  • Boost your knowledge. You can ask your friend or relative what life with sickle cell disease is like for them. Taking the time to listen and learn shows them that you care. You also can find out more online at CDC, NIH, or SCDAA.
  • Be a good friend. When someone with sickle cell disease is struggling, offer to keep them company. Do the things you normally like to do together, like hanging out, listening to music, or doing homework together. If they want to talk about sickle cell disease, listen without judgment. If they get sick and have to miss school or work, see if you can visit them at home or in the hospital. If you can’t be there in person, keep in touch by texting or video calling.
  • Do healthy things together. People with sickle cell disease feel better when they stay well hydrated, get regular physical activity, eat and sleep well, and avoid alcohol and smoking. Join your friend or relative in making healthy choices. It’s easier to follow a plan when you do it with a buddy.
  • Get help if problems happen. People with sickle cell disease usually know about problems to watch for (like a fever, a headache, or pain) and what to do if they happen. If you notice your friend or relative is having a problem, like trouble breathing or slurred speech, tell a teacher, coach, or another trusted adult right away.

Reviewed by: Aimee K. Hildenbrand, PhD
Date Reviewed: Oct 31, 2023

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