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Travelling with Sickle-Cell Disease

There is no reason why people with sickle cell disease
cannot travel, both for business and pleasure.

However, you should be well prepared and need to be aware that there are some particular risks associated with air travel for people with sickle cell disease. The risks are mainly due to: 

bulletExhaustion after a long flight.
bulletLow oxygen concentrations at high altitude.
bulletDehydration as the result of not drinking enough water on the flight, or from drinking tea, coffee or alcohol during the flight.
bulletSitting in a your seat for a long time results in poor blood circulation.

Advance planning for your journey
bulletVisit a travel clinic or talk to a medical officer with knowledge of sickle cell disease when planning your trip.

bulletGet a summary of your healthcare information so that you can pass it to a hospital in case you need treatment abroad.

bulletEnsure you have been prescribed anti-malarials by your doctor if your destination is a risk area for malaria, and that you have started the course as advised by your doctor.

bulletResearch where you are travelling to and ensure you have had the vaccines required for that area or country (if necessary), and also to know how to access healthcare and where it is located.

bulletEnsure you have bought travel insurance to cover you during your trip (this can be expensive).

Below are a few things to do before you travel.

bulletTravel when you are free from infection and/or crisis.

bulletGet a good night’s sleep on the night before your departure.

bulletDrink plenty of water and non-alcoholic drinks prior to and during your flight, and continue to do this for a few days after your arrival.

bulletGet up and stretch your legs during the flight; walk up and down the aisle a few times to improve your circulation.

bulletAvoid alcohol, tea and coffee before travel as it can dehydrate you.

bulletWatch out for any unusual symptoms of pain or breathlessness and inform the cabin crew immediately if you feel unwell.

bulletCheck with your airline if they can reserve enough oxygen on board your flight just in case you need it.

bulletAvoid smoking.

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