I will begin this write-up by talking about the way sickle cell disease (SCD) is diagnosed in a child. Some countries’ health policies get newborn babies checked for abnormal hemoglobin as part of their routine newborn screening tests.
Remember that newborn screening tests generally identify severe, life-threatening diseases, including SCD, family history, your child’s medical history and a physical exam. So, you should personally make sure your newborn baby does screening tests in order to embark on the right treatment if necessary.
Treatment begins with a diagnosis
If the screening test for your infant or toddler shows SCD, the doctor may do a blood test called hemoglobin electrophoresis. This test can reveal if your baby is a carrier of sickle cell or infected with any sickle cell gene disease. Other relevant blood tests may be necessary too.
How are kids with sickle cell disease treated?
The type of treatment your kid gets is based on their SCD symptoms, age, general health and the severity of the condition.
Early diagnosis and treatment to avoid more complications are essential here. Your child’s healthcare practitioner will refer you to a hematologist (an expert in blood disorders) and maybe other specialists.
Treatment may include:
Pain medicines: When pain episodes or crisis strike, pain medicines is used to reduce the pain.
Hydration: Drinking plenty of water daily…from between 8 and 10 glasses. This also treats pain crises. In other instances, the child may need IV (intravenous) fluids.
Blood transfusions: This method treats anemia, chronic pain, splenic sequestration and acute chest syndrome to prevent stroke.
Antibiotics and vaccines: These are used to prevent infections.
Folic acid: It helps prevent serious anemia.
Regular eye exams: Are you wondering why eye exams? Well, they are done to screen for an SCD-eye-related condition known as retinopathy. Ensure your child gets annual eye exams.
Stem cell transplant: This transplant is a cure that works well for some children with Sickle Cell Disease. You can talk with your kid’s healthcare provider about stem cell transplants.
Hydroxyurea: This potent medicine can decrease the number of sickle cells in your blood. It can cut down painful episodes (crises), complications and hospital stays.
Further research is underway on newer medicines. Discuss all these options with your child’s healthcare provider.
What are the ways I can help my child live with SCD?
Sickle Cell Disease patients have benefited from lots of advances in preventive care and new medicines, reducing life-threatening SCD problems to a significant level. Always ensure that your kid’s condition is carefully managed by specialists.
The way your child is managed is based on:
· The severity of the SCD your child has
· The type of sickle cell your child has
· How often SCD complications strike your child
· How well your child sticks to preventive measures
Also help your child to have a healthy lifestyle such as eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and drinking plenty of fluids. Other useful tips include helping your child prevent infections via hygiene and exposures that may trigger a crisis such as cold weather, high altitudes and swimming in cold water.