Hospital offers tips for students with sickle cell

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COLUMBIA - September is sickle cell awareness month, and the CDC and MU's Children's Hospital are offering tips for keeping students healthy.

The hospital's pediatric and adult sickle cell coordinator said she works with Columbia Public Schools regularly to set up care plans for students with Sickle Cell Disease, and is especially busy this time of year.

"I just got three emails today for care plans for sickle cell disease," Elizabeth Gunier said. "We have an emergency care plan and then just a standardized care plan."

Gunier said it's important to know there are several types of sickle cell and that affects many ethnicities, not just African-Americans, as some may believe.

Both the CDC and Gunier said students with sickle cell should have access to plenty of water throughout the day. Students can be easily dehydrated in hot summer temperatures or indoor heating during the winter. Gunier suggested students stay inside when the temperature is above 90 degrees to prevent dehydration.

Sickle cell creates a kidney condition that causes students to lose a lot of water, so they also need the restroom frequently. 

If the student is injured, cold pressure should not be applied, because it can cause a blockage of the sickle cells in the blood vessels. Gunier said students should wear proper outerwear in colder months for the same reason. 

"Most of the time, we tell parents, teachers and school administrators that if the temperature drops below 40 degrees, they should stay inside. Especially if there's a wind chill factor," Gunier said.

It is essential to check students' temperature, she said, before giving any medicine that could reduce a fever because they are at risk for serious infection.

Gunier said it is important for everyone to know his or her sickle cell trait status.