The Traveler with Sickle Cell Disease | oneSCDvoice
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scientific articles

The Traveler with Sickle Cell Disease

key information

source: Journal of Travel Medicine

year: 2014

authors: Shaina M. Willen, Courtney D. Thornburg, Paul M. Lantos



Sickle cell disease (SCD) is the most common genetic disease among persons with African ancestry. This article provides a background on SCD and reviews many important aspects of travel preparation in this population.


The medical literature was searched for studies about travel-associated preparedness and complications in individuals with SCD. Topics researched included malaria, bacterial infections, vaccinations, dehydration, altitude, air travel, and travel preparedness.


There is very little published literature that specifically addresses the risks faced by travelers with SCD. Rates of medical complications during travel appear to be high. There is a body of literature that describes complications of SCD in indigenous populations, particularly within Africa. The generalizability of these data to a traveler are uncertain. Combining these sources of data and the broader medical literature we address major travel-related questions that may face a provider preparing an individual with SCD for safe travel.


Travelers with SCD face considerable medical risks when traveling to developing tropical countries; these include malaria, bacterial infections, hypovolemia, and sickle cell-associated vaso-occlusive crises. Frank counseling about risks, vigilant preventative measures, and contingency planning for illness while abroad are necessary parts of the pre-travel visit for individuals with SCD.


organization: Duke University Medical Center, USA; University of San Diego Medical Center, USA

DOI: 10.1111/jtm.12142

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