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Can Sickle Cell Trait cause Health Problems?

Carrying haemoglobin S is not an illness, and will never turn into an illness. In fact, carriers are less likely than other people to catch malaria. Carriers can eat what they want, and do any kind of work they choose.

There is a small risk that if a carrier gets extremely short of oxygen, they may have an attack of pain called a "sickle cell crisis". People can get short of oxygen, for example, by competing to hold their breath under water.

Such activities should be avoided. People who carry haemoglobin S should also avoid extreme endurance exercises in very hot conditions.

Occasionally a carrier of haemoglobin S may see a little blood in their urine. Usually this is nothing to worry about and stops on its own. If it does happen, they should tell their doctor, to make sure that there is not a more serious cause. When a carrier sees a health professional (doctor, dentist, nurse or midwife) they should tell them that they carry haemoglobin S, so that they can have appropriate health care. For example if they have an anaesthetic the medical staff need to know.

Carriers can give blood provided that they are not anaemic (do not have a lower haemoglobin level than usual). However, every unit of blood is now filtered for additional safety. The red blood cells of people who carry haemoglobin S may get stuck in the filter and block it. The blood transfusion service cannot use blood from people who carry haemoglobin S until this technical problem has been solved.