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What Is the Treatment for Children with Sickle Cell Anemia?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Children with sickle cell anemia have several potential treatment options, although a bone marrow transplant is the only known way to successfully cure this disease. Antibiotic therapy, immunizations, and blood transfusions are among the most frequently used treatments. Dietary supplements, chemotherapy, and iron chelation therapy may also be used to treat the condition. Questions or concerns about specific treatment options for children with sickle cell anemia should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Daily antibiotic use is a common treatment for children with sickle cell anemia. Penicillin is typically the medication of choice, but other antibiotics may be used in some situations. While this type of therapy does not cure the illness, it may help to prevent infections that can compromise the overall health of the patient. Childhood immunizations may strengthen the immune system, further assisting the body in fighting bacteria and other potentially dangerous pathogens.

Periodic blood transfusions are often a necessary form of treatment for children with sickle cell anemia. This procedure is performed in a hospital or clinic setting and involves the insertion of a small needle into a vein, usually in the arm. Donated blood that has been carefully screened is then slowly introduced into the body to replace damaged blood cells and reduce the risks of potentially life-threatening complications such as stroke or organ damage.

Healthy eating habits are especially important for children with sickle cell anemia, and nutritional supplements are frequently needed as well. Folic acid is thought to promote the production of red blood cells and is often recommended as a dietary supplement. Other vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements may be suggested by the supervising physician, depending upon individual deficiencies.

Iron chelation therapy is sometimes needed by children with sickle cell anemia, especially if frequent blood transfusions are given. Excess amounts of iron can build up in the blood, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, hormone imbalances, or heart attack. Special drugs are given during iron chelation therapy to remove the extra iron in an effort to prevent such complications from developing. Some studies have indicated that certain chemotherapy medications may be useful in treating sickle cell anemia and may also reduce the number of blood transfusions. The supervising doctor and members of the medical staff can help devise an individual treatment plan based upon the specific needs of the patient.

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