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COVID-19 and Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell is an inherited disease that is caused by the abnormal shape of the red blood cell. The typical form of a red blood cell is round, but someone with sickle cell disease has a red blood cell with the shape of a farm tool called the sickle which makes the carriage of oxygen around the body strenuous and deficient.

The shape of these cells prevents them from flowing correctly through small blood vessels, which causes a blockage that prevents blood flow, leading to pain and severe health-related issues like stroke, various infections, and acute chest syndrome. Aside from the shape difference, a normal red blood cell is flexible, but sickle cells are rigid and sticky. 

The COVID 19 pandemic, as we all know, swept across the world in 2020, which led to people being hospitalized and also claimed some people’s lives. Countries worldwide had to declare a total lockdown, and things were at a standstill. Living through this pandemic was an unpleasant experience for most people. However, living through such conditions with a chronic health condition such as sickle cell is a whole different ball game. It becomes a great challenge to adjust to the lifestyle changes that came with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A lot of guidelines and steps were given to help curb the spread of this virus, such as wearing facemasks, constant social distancing, proper washing of hands, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, self-isolation if sick, and so on.

At this time, everyone has to be very cautious not to contract the virus, but sickle cell patients need to be extra careful. Sickle cell disease is so severe that it affects every body organ. With the COVID-19 outbreak, sickle cell patients are expected to be prioritized because they are at greater risk than those without chronic diseases. Specific extra measures should be taken by sickle cell patients and their parents/ guardians and caretakers during this period to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Sickle cell patients should stay indoors as much as possible and isolate themselves to avoid any risk of getting the virus. Any medications they need should be bought in bulk so they don’t run out of them and must go out. They should not be in crowded places during this period and strictly follow the social distance rule. Long trips should be avoided as much as possible so as not to put the patient at risk. If these sickle cell patients show any symptoms— such as fever, cough, vomiting, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, etc., they should immediately contact health care personnel and follow their instructions.

The family members of a sickle cell patient also need to take procedures so as not to risk the virus’s spread and to secure the person’s safety. They should be careful not to bring the virus home by social distancing while outside and ensuring proper sanitization.

Families should make sure they maintain personal hygiene for a germ-free environment. Clothes, bathrooms, and toilets should be clean and properly disinfected. If a family member feels sick, they should stay far away from the sickle cell patient and get help before it spreads. This is why COVID-19 testing is necessary. Antibody tests are also recommended for those that may have contracted the virus previously.

You can only do so much to avert it, but when a sickle cell patient contracts the virus, not much can be done but to contact the necessary health agencies. It is also very advisable that sickle cell patients get vaccinated. Even though it is not a complete shield from the virus because it is still developing into different variants, it is a step in the right direction. It helps reduce the chances of contracting the virus. 

Those with sickle cell disease must take these crucial preventive measures so they do not contract the COVID 19 virus. Sickle cell warriors are vulnerable to different diseases, whether critical or not. Thus, they need all assistance and attention they can get for their safety.