Cold Weather Makes It Harder for Me to Manage Sickle Cell Disease
Columnist Tito Oye must pay more attention to her health during the winter
Now that the summer months have passed, I find that it’s harder to forget that I have sickle cell disease.
You may be thinking, “How can she ever forget that she has sickle cell?” Well, I never really forget, but there are times when looking after myself requires less effort and I experience so few symptoms that I almost feel, dare I say it, “normal” — whatever that means.
This forgetfulness occurs for a few different reasons.
I live in the U.K., which is known for its terrible and unpredictable weather. However, we were blessed with some good weather this summer, and for me, the season felt a lot longer than usual.
During the warmer months, sickle cell warriors tend to live a more carefree life, as we don’t have to worry about the cold triggering a crisis. Our priority is to make sure we’re drinking enough water to avoid becoming dehydrated, which can also result in a crisis. Chances are that not much has to change in our daily routines.
Also, when the weather is warmer, I can get dressed and leave the house without having to carry a jacket with me. This may seem like a small thing, but it does make me feel less tied down. Carrying around a jacket whenever I go out serves as a constant reminder of the health difficulties I face. Being able to leave my jacket at home allows me to think about sickle cell disease less, and I feel freer.
As the weather gets colder, I need to be more intentional with the environments I expose myself to. After stress, exposure to cold temperatures is one of my biggest triggers of a sickle cell crisis.
During summer, we experience longer days. We don’t suddenly get a few extra hours; rather, because of the tilt of the Earth on its axis, we’re closer to the sun and receive more direct sunlight in a 24-hour period.
Whenever I experience more sunlight during my days, I notice that I’m in a better mood. This feeling is common for many people, as greater exposure to the sun has many physical and mental health benefits, such as boosted vitamin D levels and better quality sleep.
My elevated mood and lower stress levels both contribute to reducing the frequency and intensity of my sickle cell crises.
With the days getting shorter and darker, I notice that I’m not feeling as bubbly as I once did, and I have to look after my mental health with much more intention.
I’m not looking forward to the colder months, as I’ll have to work harder to ensure that I remain as healthy as possible. I’m hoping and praying that this winter is kind to us all.
Do you ever “forget” that you have sickle cell disease? If so, what type of environment or conditions cause this? Please share in the comments below.
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