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Sickle Cell Classroom and Workplace Guides

Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited chronic illness, which results in anemia (low blood counts) episodes of pain Discussand increased susceptibility to infections. Any complication, if severe or untreated, can be life threatening. Immediate treatment at a hospital or sickle cell center is required under these circumstances.

Attendance Issues

Absences – Sickle cell patients may be absent because of severe pain episodes caused by the blockage of blood flow to body organs or bones. These may require treatment in a hospital setting.

Helping Students to Keep Up – Make-up work for students should be provided to keep the student current with assignments. A hospital or home-based teacher may be required for prolonged complications.

Preventing Pain Crises

Those with sickle cell should be treated as normal as possible with an awareness that they may have intermittent episodes of pain, infection or fatigue that can be treated and sometimes prevented through adequate water intake and avoiding temperature extremes and over-doing it. Listed below are some strategies that may help in preventing a pain crisis.

Keep Hydrated – Allowing the individual to keep well-hydrated with water may prevent pain episodes. Do not limit access to water as their requirements are increased. This will necessitate frequent bathroom breaks also as their kidneys cannot retain water as well. Let the individual keep a water bottle with them or allow frequent water breaks.

Control Environmental Temperatures – Pain episodes may also be prevented by not allowing the individual to become over-heated or exposed to cold temperatures.

Allow Resting Periods – Because of their anemia, individuals with sickle cell may tire before others, and a rest period may be appropriate. Encourage gym and sports participation, but allow the person to stop without undue attention.

Other Important Information

Intelligence and Academic Performance – Sickle cell disease does not affect one’s intelligence, but various factors of this lifelong illness may impair academic performance. These should be identified and addressed as they would for any child. Academic performance is important as the life expectancy for those with sickle cell is now up in the forth and fifth decade. Those with sickle cell can become professionals like doctors, engineers, and lawyers as well as anyone.

Physical Features – Sickle cell patients may have a yellow tint to their eyes because of the anemia; this is not usually a liver problem. They also may have a shorter stature and delayed puberty.

When Medical Attention is Needed

The individual should seek medical attention if the following occurs:

A mild pain episode may be managed with increased fluid intake and a non-narcotic pain pill like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

What You Can Do

  • Invite a speaker from your local sickle cell foundation or clinic to educate the entire class or staff about sickle cell disease.
  • Become involved in public awareness events, like walks, fun runs, kids camp and fundraisers.
  • Encourage blood donations and blood drives in your community. Many with sickle cell disease need transfusions to prevent childhood strokes and other complications.
  • Support sickle cell research to provide new treatments.
  • Support sickle cell patients to be the best they can be.

By learning about sickle cell disease and understanding the challenges that may be faced, you can develop a plan of action with the individual to do what you can to keep them productive and complication free.

This content was taken directly from The Sickle Cell Information Center and prepared for display on NetWellness by Valerie Mann-Jiles, DNP, ANP-BC, Adult Sickle Cell Nurse Practitioner, and Saquena Atkins, MSW, LISW, Adult Sickle Cell Social Worker, James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, The Ohio State University.

To learn more about Sickle Cell Anemia, see these other NetWellness features:

For more information:

Go to the Sickle Cell Anemia health topic.