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Sickle Cell affects the haemoglobin in red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. Normal blood cells live for 120 days; red blood cells containing sickle Hemoglobin do not live this long resulting in a chronic state of Anaemia. When sickle haemoglobin gives up its oxygen to the tissues, it sticks together to form long rods inside the red blood cells making these cells rigid and sickle-shaped. A child is born with it as it is passed down from their parents and there is no cure.
The initial sign that severe pain is coming is thirst or a yellowing or jaundice of the eyes, and the sufferer will be irritable and tired. It is not always easy to detect signs of sickle pain, so children who say they are in pain or having a problem must be trusted and treated.
Symptoms include pain in arms, legs, back, and stomach, and sometimes this is quite severe. Swelling occurring in the hands and feet and joints are also stiff and painful. Pain can be triggered by infections, thirst, dehydration, over-exertion, excitement, cold weather, swimming, and bumps and bruises. Most of the time a child will feel fine, but the anaemia will make them tired and unwell. Sickle cell sufferers are at risk from developing severe infections. If this is the case, then a course of antibiotics is often necessary. Talk to the parent before it becomes a problem for the best treatment for the child.