Here’s What Triggers a Sickle Cell Crisis for Me

Mary Shaniqua avatar

by Mary Shaniqua |

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A sickle cell crisis is one of the main symptoms sickle cell patients face. However, just because we all experience the same symptoms, or similar ones, it doesn’t mean the condition affects everyone equally.

As I meet more sickle cell patients, I’m further convinced that the condition affects each of us differently. One way this plays out is that different things can induce a sickle cell crisis for each of us.

My main triggers are cold weather, infection, exhaustion, and stress.

Cold weather

I absolutely love the summer, when I get to be the most social without having to fear falling ill. Sadly, summer is officially over here in the U.K., and I, for one, am extremely upset about it. We are now into autumn and approaching winter, which are the worst months for me.

Looking back over the years, most of my hospital admissions have happened during the colder autumn and winter months. Colder temperatures cause my joints to cease up and increase the likelihood of a crisis. I try to reduce the number of outdoor social outings during colder months, and when I do go out, I make every effort to ensure I am wrapped up warmly.


In college I once let a friend drink from my straw. Unbeknownst to me, she was coming down with a cold or the flu. The next day, I ended up in intensive care with a severe crisis. Many of my extreme hospital admissions are related to infections. It’s safe to say I don’t share drinks anymore!

I also avoid people who have a cold or the flu. What may be a minor cold for a healthy person can have a disastrous effect on me. Sickle cell patients have compromised immune systems, so it can be difficult to fight infections the way a healthy person can.

I should also add that it doesn’t have to be a severe infection to cause me problems. I once slammed my thumb in a car door, and either the cut or pain from the swelling triggered a crisis shortly afterward. On several occasions, pain from something unrelated has caused a crisis.

I must be very careful and vigilant, particularly if I am experiencing pain or have been exposed to someone with a contagious infection. I’m sure you can understand why I have been so particular about how I spend my social time during this pandemic!


“Exhaustion” may not be precise enough of a word for what I’m describing, because it might seem like it would require a strenuous task to completely wipe me out, which is far from the case.

For me, exhaustion can occur simply by doing too much too soon. For example, last week I had several social get-togethers scheduled with friends. I didn’t mind because I have been working from home and hadn’t been out much lately. After the fourth meetup that week, I found myself in crisis and had to go to the hospital.

I am constantly learning my body’s ever-changing limitations. I must remember not to assume that I can do all the seemingly normal things that healthy people can do.


I have found that stress induces crises. A few years ago, I was working in a demanding and high-pressured environment, which resulted in more frequent crises.

Stress isn’t only caused by work, it also can occur in one’s personal life. I try to avoid stress in all facets of life. Admittedly, not all stress can be avoided. But stress levels need to be balanced. To avoid a crisis, I am quick to exit any scenario that is causing me too much stress.

I began this column with a caveat about how sickle cell can affect each patient differently, because it is important to note that a trigger for me isn’t necessarily a trigger for other sickle cell patients. As I mentioned, cold weather is a big trigger for me, but for others, hot weather is a trigger. Let’s remember that each patient is an individual and should be addressed as such.

Do you know your main triggers? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 


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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell anemia.


Tinah Omeri avatar

Tinah Omeri

I have taken time to monitor and understand my body and what works for me, and I can understand that Infection is the main Crisis Trigger for me, though I Rarely experience Crisis. I know this because test results reveals Platelets in the Blood and further enquiry the Doctor will tell me is an Infection, and this has happened on several occasions.

Taking Vegetables and fruit Supplements, with good food helps a lot too.

What bothers me is the yellowing of the white eye. Drinking plenty water clears it a bit, only for it to resurface the next day.

Nassamula Grace avatar

Nassamula Grace

Thank you for sharing with us these trigger and it so happens that infection are at a high rate for me. So I do check ups, well or not to help me know quickly.

Alicia Milam avatar

Alicia Milam

Olive leaf and ashwaganda and dandelions out the yard.ues damdelions root stem and flower along wit kale really helps my blood stay strong..and hawthorn..and evenflo wine or red seeded grapes.its amazing..

Alicia Milam avatar

Alicia Milam

Beetroot juice and the leaves ..paw paw and prickly ash bark wit don quai herbs also i find added in my weekly diet help blood flow these are studied to have made the cells and blood vessles less sticky..herbs wit the right combination is a GOD send. The bible speaks on trees healing the nations..or revelations 22 vs.2

LeaTecia Williams avatar

LeaTecia Williams

I am glad to read the different things to minimize my crises. I have them often and they are getting worse. It's worse in the winter. Please keep sharing your stories.

Mary Shaniqua avatar

Mary Shaniqua

I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having crises more frequently. Please be sure to take as many preventative measures as you can and stay strong.

Onuigbo chibuzo avatar

Onuigbo chibuzo

My younger sister goes through alot i guess mosquitoe bite stirs up the pain


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