Tips for Preventing a Sickle Cell Crisis While Traveling

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by Dunstan Nicol-Wilson |

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Traveling is one of my greatest passions. I enjoy seeing new things and immersing myself in different cultures, especially through local cuisines.

Living with sickle cell disease means I have to take extra precautions when traveling, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, my trips don’t always go as planned. I often experience painful crises while abroad, and have occasionally had to be hospitalized.

Thankfully, these experiences haven’t hindered my desire to continue traveling. There is so much to see outside of my home city.

I’ve found several tips online about traveling with sickle cell, such as ensuring you have your medication, staying warm, and drinking plenty of fluids. However, during my most recent trip abroad, I realized there is more to it. As a result, I didn’t have a crisis!

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What to Do When Traveling with Sickle Cell

Blocking days

Being rested before embarking on a flight is key, especially with sickle cell, as long trips can put a strain on the body. Blocking out a few days before my trip allows me to rest, prepare, and conserve energy. Additionally, blocking out a day or two after I arrive at my destination allows me to recover and acclimate to the weather. I often feel an urge to do everything as soon as I land, but preventing a crisis is paramount to enjoying my vacation.

Preparing early

Being organized is critical when traveling with sickle cell. Although some COVID-19 travel restrictions have eased, the pandemic is still a threat in many parts of the world, and most countries require visitors to be fully vaccinated. Make sure to research your destination, obtain all necessary vaccinations and COVID-19 tests, and bring all essential documentation and medications.

Stress is one of my triggers, so it’s important for me to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the organization and preparation that travel requires. Planning early allows me to ease the burden of stress on my body, which ultimately can help prevent a crisis.


I enjoy traveling both solo and with a group. Either way, it’s important that I communicate my needs. I sometimes get swept up in wanting to do every activity on a group trip, but I must listen to my body. It’s OK to say, “No, I’m tired, and I’ll join once I’ve rested.” This doesn’t come easily to me, given the fear of missing out that often accompanies chronic conditions like sickle cell. During solo trips, it’s important for me to check in with someone, so others are aware of how I’m feeling physically.

Planning for worst-case scenarios

Personally, I am terrible about considering worst-case scenarios, because I like to live in what I call “the healthy zone.” In this zone, I focus on positive thoughts: I’m not in a crisis, and I won’t experience a crisis. It’s great to be optimistic, but sickle cell doesn’t always play along.

Knowing that a crisis is possible isn’t necessarily bad, because it allows me to prepare for one. If I’m in a foreign country without access to the right medication, a crisis can be life-threatening. It’s important to prepare for the worst-case scenarios so that I’m ready for all possible scenarios.

I know not everyone is able to travel abroad, but if you can, it comes with a number of health benefits, such as reduced stress and increased happiness. Living with sickle cell certainly has its drawbacks, but I’ve learned how to make health-conscious decisions that will maximize my enjoyment while traveling. With proper planning and a few compromises, traveling with sickle cell doesn’t have to be out of reach!


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.


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