Sickle cell warriors are among the category of persons who suffer the most during harmattan. Due to extreme, often unpredictable temperatures that triggers sickle cell crisis. As well as the spread of infections that leave them glued to sick beds in lieu of celebrating the holiday with friends and families. If you’re related or happen to live near persons with sickle cell disease, you’ll agree that their experiences are nothing short of agonizing in dry seasons.
In this post, people with sickle cell disease will get acquainted with safety tips to prevent complications during this harmattan.
What Is Sickle Cell Crisis?
According to medical researchers, sickle cell crisis occurs when the flow of blood is blocked to an area because the cells have become stuck in the blood vessel.
Visualize this, you have a paper bag filled with donuts of various shapes which you idly toss into cylindrical water pipes. Each time you absently dip your hand inside the bag to hurl, you come up with round, smooth donuts that move freely down the pipes. But then you notice the water stops moving and upon inspection, realize your last four tosses were large crescent-shaped donuts. These half-moon donuts fell in the wrong way, you’ll need to get the water flowing again, but how?.
This illustration is how sickle cell crisis works. Our blood is made up of red blood cells, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. The red blood cells much like the donuts can easily move around the body. But that’s not the case for sickle cells. Here, the red blood cells are not smooth or round, they’re half moons and as they move, become stuck in the blood vessel.
The resultant effect is painful episodes which occurs mostly in the chest, arms, and leg regions. This excruciating episodes are what we term sickle cell crisis and they worsen during the harmattan season.
How To Prevent Complications In Harmattan
Before we dive in, bear in mind that this is not a medical or healthcare blog. All information provided are well-curated, helpful tips to improve lives.
As we all know, harmattan season in Nigeria ushers in unkind weather conditions such as plunging temperatures and low humidity. Which can be party-poopers for sickle cell warriors. In order to prevent some of the sickle cells complications, here are some safety tips:
- Sickle cell warriors should avoid bathing with or swimming in cold water. Sudden temperature changes are inevitable during the harmattan season and when the weather is cold, the body tries to regulate it and in the process, blood vessels constrict. People with sickle cell cannot entirely avoid engaging in festivities because of extreme temperatures. Dressing appropriately for the weather will help mitigate the problem of unfavorable weather conditions.
- Smoking and alcohol consumption lowers the oxygen level in the blood and can trigger painful episodes. When you smoke, the nicotine in tobacco attaches to hemoglobin (the protein in the blood cell that transports oxygen throughout the body). This can spark off a severe lung condition called acute chest syndrome. Also, when you consume alcohol, you become dehydrated and dehydration makes you susceptible to sickle cell crisis.
- People with sickle cell know well to avoid every forms of strenuous physical activities. However, you can include moderate exercises that don’t leave you breathless into your fitness regimen. Relaxation reduces the risk of a pain crisis.
- Drinking enough water and other fluids, especially during hot weather to prevent dehydration. Also avoid caffeinated, cold beverages.
5. Steer clear of high altitudes, such high-levels lacks oxygen and leads to splenic infarction (occurs when there’s breach in blood flow to the spleen), which increases the risk of a sickle cell crisis. Although, there are exceptions when travelling by air, cabin pressurization maintain a steady oxygen level in airplanes.
6. Incorporate healthy diets with plenty fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein and drink lots of water.
7. To avoid risk of food poisoning, ensure you properly cook, store and reheat meals before consumption.
8. Regularly stay in touch or visit your doctors and healthcare providers. It is equally important to note that disregarding most of this safety tips will lead to severe pain episodes.
9. Always wash your hands with soap and water especially when you feel there may be germs on them. after going to the toilet and before handling food
10. Ensure that you take the prescribed medications from your doctors and have a ready supply of extra painkillers in case of painful episodes.
11. Protect yourself from dry, dusty air by wearing appropriate clothing and accessories, shades, nose mask etc.
12. Cut back on the early morning and late night strolls this harmattan, snuggle up when you can and enjoy the festive season with friends and family.