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4 Symptoms of Sickle Cell Crisis Everyone Should Know About

March 26, 2018 by Andrea

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Even though celebrities such as T-Boz and the late Prodigy have spoken freely about living with sickle cell disease, the awareness they create is always short-lived, while other rare diseases go on to have ice bucket challenges and make major headlines for multiple years. A reason for this is likely because our society sees sickle cell as a "Black-only disease" (the majority of warriors in the U.S. are African American), and as with other aspects in our country that may mostly affect Black people, SCD isn't made a priority. 

These Black lives matter, too. About one in every 365 African-American babies are born with sickle cell, and as of now, this lifelong disease has no cure. There are treatments and crisis interventions available, though, that are improving year after year. 

You may not be a warrior yourself. You may not even have a warrior in your family. But, if you or your child has a friend over and that friend has SCD, or you're a teacher with a student who has SCD, or any other similar circumstance, it's important that you have a working knowledge of sickle cell and the ability to quickly recognize the symptoms of a crisis, so you can get the necessary help should a crisis set in on your watch. 


1) Pain 

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Most likely, the pain will occur in the arms, legs, belly, chest, or lower back, but it's possible to have pain anywhere on the body. 


2) Fatigue

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Since the red blood cells are misshapen, they can stick together and block the path for other red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. This means the body has to work extra hard to get oxygen where it's needed, which can leave the warrior feeling weak and exhausted. 


3) Difficulty Breathing

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The same oxygen reduction that leads to fatigue can also make breathing difficult. This is also known as acute chest syndrome, which causes coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath. 


4) Fever 

Photo by Ph0705 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Ph0705 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

If a fever is present, this may also suggest that the crisis was triggered by an illness. It's important to take the person to the doctor immediately so proper care can be given to avoid potential complications from infection.


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