Sickle cell anaemia and your risk for Covid-19 – what you should know


While a large percentage of those who contract Covid-19 – the disease caused by the new coronavirus – will probably experience only mild symptoms, people with underlying conditions are in a higher-risk category.

These conditions include the condition sickle cell anaemia (also referred to as sickle cell disease), a serious condition that affects red blood cells.

What exactly is this condition?

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an umbrella term for an inherited group of blood disorders. 

A previous Health24 article explains that red blood cells affected by SCD have a unique crescent shape and are unable to supply enough oxygen to sustain the body. 

SCD causes blood cells to stick to one another and form clusters in the bloodstream. These clusters can expand and block the flow of blood and oxygen, causing damage to blood vessels and organs. 

The disease is chronic, lifelong and debilitating, but differs in clinical severity.

How is your risk for Covid-19 heightened?

Although this coronavirus is new, we already know that any person suffering from a chronic blood disorder, regardless of their age, may be in a higher risk category for Covid-19.

As the lack of oxygen as a result of compromised red blood cells puts your immune system under pressure, you are more likely to catch Covid-19. 

If you are suffering from SCD, your anxiety about Covid-19 might be heightened. One way you can stay protected and also lower your anxiety is by informing yourself about the virus, getting to know all the relevant facts.

READ: Coronavirus 101 – here’s what you need to know

What measures can you take to protect yourself against Covid-19?

As a person with a chronic blood disorder, you should consult with your medical professional on specific guidelines for your condition during this time. Also ensure that you have your medication and supplements at hand to avoid making unnecessary trips to the pharmacy while it’s best to distance yourself from others. Here are some general guidelines for those with sickle cell anaemia:

  • Limit contact with people outside your family as much as possible.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Disinfect shared surfaces in your house.
  • Monitor any other members of your household closely and contact your doctor as soon as you or anyone else start experiencing symptoms that might indicate Covid-19.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and face, especially after you had to go out for groceries or medicine.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or the crook of your elbow if you cough or sneeze.
  • Take tally of your prescription medication and make sure you're stocked up on any other medicines you rely on.

Look after your immune system

Another way to protect yourself during this time is to take better care of your immune system than ever before. These tips may help:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and keep up your iron intake. 
  • Get regular and sufficient sleep.
  • Take time to breathe during these stressful times.

READ | Can anaemia cause death?

READ | What happens to your body when you leave iron-deficiency anaemia untreated?

READ | Who's most at risk from coronavirus?

Image credit: iStock
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