Preparing for a safe and fun school holiday with a sickle cell warrior

Tips include staying hydrated and using sun protection

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by Sylvia Amuta |

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As the school holidays approach here in Nigeria, the excitement in my household is palpable. My kids, along with my cousin Ada, who lives with sickle cell disease, are eagerly looking forward to the break.

The holidays promise longer sleep hours, extended screen time, and endless play under the sun. As a caregiver to Ada, however, I find that this season also brings additional responsibilities. Ensuring that Ada enjoys her holidays safely is my top priority, and I need to take several precautions to make this possible.

1. Adequate hydration: One of my primary concerns during the holidays is dehydration, which can trigger a sickle cell crisis. With the kids playing outside in the scorching sun, it’s crucial to keep them hydrated. I always ensure Ada has a bottle of water with her at all times. We have a routine where every hour, I remind her and the boys to take a hydration break. To make it fun, I sometimes add a splash of fruit juice to their water or make flavored ice cubes, which they love.

2. Sun protection: The Nigerian sun can be relentless, and sunburns are not just painful but can also cause inflammation that increases the overall stress load on the body and could precipitate a crisis. Before the kids step outside, I make it a point to apply ample sunscreen on all exposed skin. I opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50, and I reapply it every two hours, or more frequently if they’ve been swimming or sweating. Additionally, I encourage them to wear hats and light, long-sleeve clothing to provide an extra layer of protection.

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3. Guarding against mosquito bites: Living in Nigeria means dealing with mosquitoes and the risk of malaria, which is another significant trigger for sickle cell crises. I use mosquito repellent creams liberally on Ada and the boys before they head out to play. In the evenings, when mosquitoes are most active, I ensure they are indoors or in screened areas. We also use mosquito nets and have the house regularly sprayed to minimize the risk of bites.

4. Managing physical activity: Ada loves to play soccer and ride her new pink bicycle, just like her cousins. While it’s heartening to see her so active, I need to ensure that her activities are not too strenuous. Overexertion can lead to a sickle cell crisis, so I set up a system of scheduled breaks. During these breaks, Ada rests in the shade, hydrates, and has a light snack. I also teach her to listen to her body and stop playing if she feels overly tired or short of breath.

5. Creating a balanced schedule: With the kids home all day, it’s essential to have a variety of activities to keep them engaged without overwhelming them. Indoor activities like board games, crafts, and reading sessions provide a balance to outdoor play. I also include some educational games and light exercises that are safe for Ada. This way she can enjoy the holidays without compromising her health.

6. Self-care for caregivers: While the focus is on keeping Ada and the boys safe, I also remind myself of the importance of self-care. The school holidays are a time of joy and relaxation, but for caregivers of children with sickle cell disease, our care requires extra planning and vigilance, which can be exhausting. It’s vital to take time out to recharge. Whether it’s a quiet cup of tea, a short walk, or a few minutes of meditation, these small breaks help me stay energized and effective in my caregiving role.

I hope these tips are helpful to other caregivers navigating similar challenges. Remember, taking care of your own well-being is just as important as looking after your loved ones. Here’s to a safe, happy, and crisis-free season for all!

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.


Akinrefon Oluwatoyin avatar

Akinrefon Oluwatoyin

Very helpful n willing to work with u.As i have 2 girls with sickle cell disease ,but lost the older one in year 2 at the University n the younger one is now about getting admission into the University.


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