The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your health care provider if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications only as recommended by your health care provider, and according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your health care provider.
There are no medications to cure sickle cell disease. Instead, medications are given to treat symptoms and complications, improve the body’s ability to fight infection, and boost the body’s production of red blood cells.
Hydroxyurea is a chemotherapy agent often used to treat cancers, such as leukemia. It appears to help the body produce slightly more normal red blood cells that are slightly more flexible and don’t block blood vessels as frequently. Most people who take hydroxyurea need fewer
than those who do not.
Hydroxyurea affects your immune system. While you are taking it, don’t get any immunizations without reminding your healthcare provider that you are taking this drug.
Possible side effects include: NauseaVomitingDiarrheaIncreased chance of infection
Penicillin is given routinely to children between the ages of 2 months and 5 years who have sickle cell disease. Penicillin can prevent these children from developing infections, especially pneumococcal pneumonia.
It is sometimes given to adults, too.
Possible side effects include: DiarrheaAllergic rashInterference with birth control pillsFalse results on blood sugar tests
in people with diabetes
Common names include: IndomethacinKetorolacIbuprofenNaproxen
NSAIDs are given to treat pain. Although some types are available over-the-counter, your healthcare provider may choose to give you a prescription so that you can take a higher dose.
Take your doses with food because many of these medications irritate the stomach. Don’t drink alcohol while you are taking NSAIDs.
Possible side effects include: LightheadednessStomach irritationPeptic ulcers
Common names include: VicodinHysinglaDolophineMS ContinDolophineOxyContinDilaudidFentanylNucyntaButrans
Opioids are given to treat pain. They can slow your breathing. You should not drink alcohol or take other pain medications or sedatives at the same time.
Possible side effects include: LightheadednessSedationDrowsinessNausea, vomitingConstipationDry mouth
Aspirin helps control inflammation and decrease pain. Aspirin can be irritating to the stomach, so take it with food.
Because aspirin has blood-thinning properties, always remind your healthcare providers that you are taking it before dental or medical procedures, or surgeries.
Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving a child aspirin.
Possible side effects include: Stomach irritationRinging in the ears
asthmaIncreased bleeding time
Acetaminophen is a mild pain reliever. It is also effective for treating fevers. Do not drink alcohol while you are taking acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is toxic to your liver in high doses. Carefully monitor how much acetaminophen you take daily.
If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines: Take your medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.Do not stop taking prescription medication without talking to your doctor.Do not share prescription medication. Ask what results and side effects to expect. Report them to your doctor.Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one medication. Some medications can be dangerous when mixed. This includes over-the-counter medication and herb or dietary supplements.Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.
Contact your doctor if: Your symptoms worsenYou develop a new skin rashYou develop a fever
Complications and treatments. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/sicklecell/treatments.html. Updated August 31, 2016. Accessed December 13, 2016.
How is sickle cell disease treated?
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
website. Available at:
Updated August 2, 2016. Accessed December 13, 2016.
Sickle cell disease. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sickle-cell-anemia.html. Updated July 2015. Accessed December 13, 2016.
Last reviewed December 2016 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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