Sickle Cell and School

Every August parents around the UK get ready to send their children back to school. For the children, this is a time of change, either a move to the next class or for many, a move to a new school. This means new teachers, new classroom environments and new routines.

For children with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) moving to a new class or school can be a minefield that potentially puts them at risk of a pain crisis. Even if a child is excited about the move, it can be stressful and stress is a trigger for a pain crisis. For parents, it can be a time when they feel fear for their child, especially during the move from primary school to high school. They may wonder whether their child will settle in ok, make friends and cope with the work. A parent of a child with SCD, may suffer from the disease themselves and also be at risk of experiencing a pain crisis during the school transition period.

As well as stress, other triggers for a pain crisis can include infections, cold or damp environments, dehydration, strenuous exercise and sudden changes in temperature. Moving from primary to high school means working with new teachers, multiple classroom changes during the day and new rules. People with SCD need to keep warm, eat healthily, take care when exercising, take plenty of fluids and minimise stress. Pupils with SCD may lose weeks of schooling a year if they cannot manage their condition during the school day and they need the support of teachers and school policies to do this.

For most parents, the September return to school is something to celebrate and a time where they can get back to a normal routine, but for the parent of a child with SCD, it is a busy time that sees them having to build new relationships with teachers and school support teams to ensure that their child is well supported to manage their SCD for the next year.

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