Fever is defined as a temperature of 100.4°F or higher. If you develop a fever it is important to have it immediately evaluated by a healthcare provider. Because of the changes in the immune system of individuals with sickle cell, you are more likely to be infected by specific types of bacteria that your body may have trouble fighting. A fever might be a harmless infection but there is also the possibility of a more serious infection.
Some of the bacteria that you are more susceptible to can cause a variety of diseases such as bacteria in the blood (bacteremia), bacteria in the brain outer lining lining (meningitis) and bacteria in the lung (pneumonia).
- If you experience fever with shortness of breath, headache, or a productive cough you need to see a medical professional immediately. These conditions will have a collection of symptoms that a healthcare professional will be able to recognize and treat accordingly.
- Treatment & Prevention: Any sign of fever or infection is a medical emergency. You can reduce the risk of infection by making sure that you are up to date with all your vaccinations. For individuals with sickle cell that are below 5 years old, daily penicillin should be given as a preventative measure. After 5 years, you can speak with your doctor about stopping or continuing antibiotics.
All organs in individuals with sickle cell are at risk for damage because of the blockages that can happen in the vessels giving nutrients to the organs. The liver is an organ that is able to regenerate and heal itself but can still be damaged. Many individuals with sickle cell receive transfusions over their life, and the excess iron from those transfusions can also damage the liver. This puts you at risk for some conditions, particularly hepatitis C. This is a viral infection that occurs in the liver that can progress to a chronic infection and liver failure if not caught and treated.
- Treatment/Prevention: We recommend that you have an annual screen for hepatitis C (HCV). You can reduce your risk of hepatitis C infection by avoiding contact with contaminated blood. The most common way to acquire HCV is through injecting drugs. Stopping injections is the best way to prevent HCV, medication-assisted treatment and syringe services programs can also reduce risk.
Infections of the urinary tract are more common in individuals with sickle cell disease due to the increased irritation and the loss of water at a faster rate. Signs of urinary tract infection include blood in the urine, pain with urination, flank pain, belly pain, fever or nausea and vomiting.