What can victims do about the pain?

First, sufferers need to avoid situations that have greater risk of triggering a painful episode.  These include:

  • Reduced body temperature, such as bathing in cold water or cold weather,
  • Dehydration, such as outdoor exertion, or
  • Lower ambient oxygen, such as higher altitudes, airplanes, or air pollution.

All these factors increase the risk of sickling or inhibit the production of red blood cells.  So, caution is advised in travel (especially by airplane), colder weather, exercise, and diet.  Avoiding too much salt, and drinking water copiously should help.

Once pain has begun, a few home-based tactics should help.  These suggestions are not intended to supplant expert medical care. Sickle-cell patients should obtain and follow the guidance of their local medical professionals.  Expert medical care always should be sought, because health-care providers have other options, such as oxygen, intravenous fluids, blood transfusion, hydroxyurea, and prescription pain medications.  Females should discuss hormone therapy with their caregiver, if painful menses occur.

  • Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or  acetaminophen.  Of course, dosage limitations (example) should be observed.
  • Heating pads or warm baths.
  • If air travel is necessary, investigate supplemental oxygen, and drink plenty of water.