Dehydration and sickle cell disease

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that turns normal, round blood cells into misshaped cells that look like sickles or crescent moons. These sickled cells can get stuck in blood vessels, blocking blood flow and causing severe pain as well as damage to organs, muscles, and bones. Dehydration can trigger blood flow to slow down, which may cause a painful event in a person with sickle cell disease.

Dehydration occurs when the body loses too much water. People can lose large amounts of water when they:

  • Have diarrhea.
  • Have a fever over 100°F (37.8°C).
  • Vomit.
  • Sweat from physical activity or exposure to heat.
  • Urinate in large amounts.

A person with sickle cell disease should seek medical care for dehydration right away.

If you have sickle cell disease, don't let a fear of dehydration stop you from exercising. Just be sure to drink fluids before, during and after your activities. If your child has sickle cell disease, let teachers and other school personnel know that children who have sickle cell disease need water or other fluids available at all times. You can also provide written instructions listing the symptoms of dehydration and what to do if it occurs.

Last Updated: December 9, 2008

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Martin Steinberg, MD - Hematology

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