How I Try to Avoid a Cold Weather Pain Crisis

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by Mary Shaniqua |

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Winter has finally arrived here in the U.K. 

I really dislike the winter, in case you didn’t know. One of my biggest sickle cell disease crisis triggers is cold weather. Although sickle cell patients have different pain crisis triggers, almost all sickle cell patients are triggered by cold weather. When it gets cold, the process of thermoregulation kicks in, which results in blood vessels constricting to preserve body heat. But when blood vessels constrict in sickle cell patients, it makes it even harder for blood to flow properly through the body, which increases the chance of having a pain crisis. 

Consequently, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I spend most of my time in the winter trying to avoid a crisis where possible. I would liken it to an assault course, with the range of obstacles on the course representing a severe crisis and hospitalization, and me doing all I can to successfully get around them. 

Of course, every year is different, and as my body changes I have to adapt my approach accordingly. But there remain a few things that I do without fail each year to try and mitigate the risk of a crisis. 

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Tips for Preventing a Sickle Cell Crisis While Traveling

First, I try to limit going outside. Sounds drastic, I know, but it’s the truth. I’m extremely social in the summer months, but once winter hits I pretty much stay at home. I used to go outside in winter to do things such as go to work and go shopping, but my shielding experience from the COVID-19 pandemic has shown me I can live a relatively normal life, still accessing my essentials, without being forced to leave my house. And when I am at home, I utilize hot water bottles and electric blankets to help keep myself warm.

My friends know that, though I am not particularly open to going out during the winter months, I am happy to have them come around to visit me. The winter makes for a good time for people to adjust their social plans if they have a friend with sickle cell disease who they don’t want to feel left out.

I recently wrote about the issues I am having with my health that seem to be triggered by my menstrual cycle. These issues have given me even more incentive to limit my outdoor interactions.

On the rare occasions that I do go out, I make sure I am wrapped up warm. I am compelled to go into the office at least once a week at the moment. As such, I have invested in thermal clothing to make sure I keep warm when I go outside. I also drive to and from work, though this comes at a significantly higher cost for me. It is a bit irritating, but I would much rather spend the extra money to remain in a warm environment instead of having to wait in the cold for public transport. And whenever I go anywhere in my car, I always take a hot drink in a thermal travel mug.

I’d like to know what other people with sickle cell disease do during the cold weather to avoid a pain crisis. Please share in the comments below.


Note: Sickle Cell Disease 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 Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell disease.


Mr David Isichei avatar

Mr David Isichei

Top Tip: Buy a heated jacket. There are many brands out there but for fear of this not going through because of brand touting I shall not reveal my trusted brand. Needless to say these products have evolved significantly over the years and have come leaps and bounds ensuring they actually work and keep you warm when most needed. I have 3 different jackets in 3 different colours ensuring I always have one that works with my attire. I used to work in an office where it was nice and warm but now have my own development business which often requires me to be on-site with no heating or in a field assessing plots. Without these products I would be in trouble. There are also heated gloves, socks, boots and headbands but as they work on batteries these smaller products can be cumbersome and uncomfortable. The jackets strike that right balance of comfort, style and more importantly usefulness. These products are an absolute God send meaning you no longer have to fear being caught in the cold.


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