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More Online Queries in Winter Suggest Seasonal Variations in SCD Activity

More people search for information on sickle cell disease (SCD) during winter than summer, indicating seasonal changes in symptom flare-ups, an analysis of Google search queries shows.

Findings were published in the study, “Seasonal manifestations of sickle cell disease activity,” in the journal Nature Medicine.

In SCD, hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body, is abnormally shaped because of a mutation in the gene that makes one of the components of hemoglobin. These sickle-shaped cells die prematurely, causing anemia, or low levels of red blood cells. They also clog blood vessels, leading to severe pain and organ damage.

Previous studies have examined the association between cold weather and episodes of severe pain in SCD patients, but the results are conflicting, according to the authors.