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What Are Tips for Traveling by Airplane with Sickle Cell


People travel for many reasons, including work, sports events, tourism, visits, business and more. However, not everyone can travel comfortably without taking critical measures to protect their health. A good example is people with sickle cell disease (SCD) because they may find traveling stressful. While flying, aspects such as bad weather can trigger SCD complications.

Does going on a trip increase the risk of SCD complications?

Sickle cell disease patients run the risk of increased SCD complications during a trip, unlike people without SCD.

In a study involving up to 150 travelers with SCD, it was found that almost 2 out of every 3 people suffered from an acute complication before their return from abroad. In addition, about 1 in 10 people were either hospitalized or required hospitalization while abroad.

Does flying increase the risk of SCD complications?

If you have SCD, choose pressurized airplanes for your trips because they are safer. However, staying hydrated and performing leg exercises, makes a lot of sense. You can take periodic walks through the cabin, provided your health permits you to do so.

SCD patients can easily encounter SCD complications in high altitudes. Note that at mountain elevations, acute pain crisis risk is nearly 40 percent. Spleen damage can also trigger high altitude complication.

Travelling for too long in an airplane increases the risk of triggering venous thromboembolism (VTE). It’s a blood clot that forms in the veins and goes to the lungs. Consult your healthcare provided on the best techniques to prevent travel-associated VTE.

What are the reasons going on a trip can trigger acute pain episodes?

One of the common complications travellers with SCD face is an acute pain crisis.

Here are travel-related factors that can trigger an episode:

·       Infection

·       Dehydration

·       Weather changes

·       High altitude

If you have SCD, your risk of having a low amount of blood circulation (hypovolemia) increases. Conditions like this can be worsened by heat exposure, inadequate or unavailability of safe drinking water, and diarrheal illness. During hypovolemia, red blood cells can easily sickle, resulting in acute pain episodes.

Do international travellers have a higher risk of infection?

If you live with SCD, your risks of contracting infections during international travels increase, especially in the case of children. So, it’s generally important to get vaccinated for infections that can easily touch SCD patients.

 Here are some of the common infections you may catch abroad:

·       Staphylococcus aureus (staph)

·       Malaria

·       Salmonella

·       Shigella

Discuss with your healthcare provider well in advance about your travel plans in order to get advice on whether to get additional vaccinations or take certain medications with you such as antimalarial drugs. Your doctor will enlighten you more on the best ways to reduce the risk of infections, such as avoiding drinking water from unsealed water bottles or taking other medicines with you.




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