Heat Waves Can Exacerbate My Sickle Cell Symptoms

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by Tito Oye |

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We recently experienced a heat wave here in the U.K., where temperatures climbed as high as 32 C (89.6 F).

Those of you from hotter parts of the world may look at this laugh, but the U.K. is not built for this type of heat. Homes, made of brick, are built to keep heat in. Also, only 0.5% of houses in the U.K. have air conditioning, compared with 87% of houses in the U.S.

Being stuck indoors on days when the temperature was so high made me realize that unlike most people with sickle cell disease, I prefer a colder climate.

Those of us with sickle cell disease need to be conscientious about the temperature of our environment because it directly affects our health. Extreme temperature changes can trigger a sickle cell crisis. Changing from a hot to a cold environment can constrict our blood vessels, which slows the flow of blood and causes sickled red blood cells to stick together.

Also, when it is too hot, we can feel even more lethargic than normal, and we become dehydrated quickly. Both of these can trigger a crisis if we are not careful.

While feeling hot is a great excuse to eat all the frozen treats in the house, I realized that I can manage my health more effectively when I am in a cooler environment rather than a hot one. I have lived in the U.K. my entire life, and I am aware of what I must do to stay as healthy as possible in such a climate.

I also realized that I find it easier to warm myself up when I am cold rather than cooling myself down when I am hot. When I feel too cold, I can easily reach for my hot water bottle, put on multiple layers of clothing, drink a hot drink, turn on the radiator, and go under the covers.

But if I feel too hot, I find that my options to cool down are limited, and they aren’t as effective. I can wear lighter clothes, open a window, turn on a fan, and drink a cold drink, but it takes a while for my body to cool down.

I did all of these things during the recent heat wave, but I felt so hot for such a long period that I started to think I had a fever. I had to find a thermometer to make sure my temperature was normal. My temperature was 36.8 C (98.2 F). Anything higher than 37 C (98.6 F) would have been a cause of concern, as it could have been a symptom of infection.

Thankfully, the temperature in the U.K. has started to cool down again, and I have been able to maintain an environment in my house that is optimal for my health.

What do you think? Are you able to manage your health better in a hot environment or a cold one? Please share in the comments below.

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Note: Sickle Cell Anemia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Anemia News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell anemia.

Comments

Louise Rachael Mwape Miller avatar

Louise Rachael Mwape Miller

I am a sickle cell trait patient, who has always suffered with pain crisis since coming back to the UK from the warmth of South Africa at the age of 5 and since then I've always been highly vulnerable to infections and pain crisis often, although suffering the worst crisis in many years since lockdown and the current heatwave. I prefer a hotter climate, as although I have the trait, I find I can cope better in the heat, than I do in cold. Although I agree with Tito, in that I find it hard to cool my body down especially at night times, so Ive struggled to sleep, which has caused more pain, but have always dressed in layers. My right arm keeps swelling on and off and at times I can't even use it and the stabbing hip and pelvic pain I have at the moment is almost unbearable.I agree also that I've had to check myself temperature wise, but since my pain crisis began, I've had to be supplementing with herbal supplements diligently to build my immune system. I have found because Im only a carrier that many medi al professionals don't have sufficient knowledge of sickle cell and/or symptoms and pain and so they fob me off, which is now affecting my work. Im wanting to find other trait individuals who are willing to speak with me about what they've esperienced. I'm pushing for a haematology referral to find out whether I carry super aickling variants Hb Oman or Hb Antilles to assist gps and the sickle cell and thalassaemia service here in Leeds to take me seriously, as I had a longer recovery rate from being frozen in the hospital last year from a minor op under general anasthetic, which caused me a sickling crisis and the flu for over 3 weeks. Although I asked for blankets and told them I am symptomatic, they gave me 2 blankets and I used both my mums and my puffer coats to warm me up, but i was frozen to the bones and when I got home that afternoon, I was in agony, I couldnt even walk to the toilet and turning in bed was agony! I can usually manage mild symptoms, but this time I've been housebound for 2 months and I recall such severe migraines earlier this year causing me to drink over 4 litres of water in an 8 hour period. Im always lethargic at the moment and no one wants to help me or listen. I know it is deemed rare for sc trait patients to suffer, but I do and always have and I am 35 years old. Please let me know if other trait individuals have been in touch. I would like to connect to them as I really do struggle because there is no category that I fit into.

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