Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

Taking the following steps to stay healthy may help you avoid complications of sickle cell anemia:

  • Take folic acid supplements daily, and choose a healthy diet. Bone marrow needs folic acid and other vitamins to make new red blood cells. Your doctor might recommend a folic acid supplement. Choose a diet that focuses on a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains.
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can increase your risk of a sickle cell crisis. Drink water throughout your day, aiming for about eight glasses a day. Increase the amount of water you drink if you exercise or spend time in a hot, dry climate.
  • Avoid temperature extremes. Exposure to extreme heat or cold can increase your risk of a sickle cell crisis.
  • Exercise regularly, but don't overdo it. Talk with your doctor about how much exercise is right for you.
  • Use over-the-counter (OTC) medications with caution. Use OTC pain medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, Children's Motrin, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) sparingly, if at all, because of the possible effect on your kidneys. Ask your doctor before taking OTC drugs.

Coping and support

If you or someone in your family has sickle cell anemia, you may want help with the stresses of this lifelong disease. Consider:

  • Finding someone to talk with. Sickle cell centers and clinics can provide information and counseling. Ask your doctor or the staff at a sickle cell center if there are support groups for families in your area. Talking with others who are facing the same challenges you are can be helpful.
  • Exploring ways to cope with the pain. Work with your doctor to find ways to control your pain. Pain medications can't always take all the pain away. Different techniques work for different people, but it might be worth trying heating pads, hot baths, massages or physical therapy.
  • Learning about sickle cell anemia to make informed decisions about care. If you have a child with sickle cell anemia, learn as much as you can about the disease. Ask questions during your child's appointments. Ask your health care team to recommend good sources of information.

Prevention

If you carry the sickle cell trait, seeing a genetic counselor before trying to conceive can help you understand your risk of having a child with sickle cell anemia. He or she can also explain possible treatments, preventive measures and reproductive options.