Sickle cell trait (3060)

Key points below

What is sickle cell trait?

Sickle cell trait means your child carries one gene for sickle cell disease (also called sickle cell anemia). To have sickle cell disease, a child must have two genes for sickle cell. 
Your child does not have sickle cell disease. 
Sickle cell trait cannot change into sickle cell disease.

What is sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease is a blood disease that affects hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen. Children with sickle cell disease do not have normal hemoglobin. This causes the red blood cells to change shape and block the blood from flowing. These blocks are painful. They also limit the amount of oxygen to the body parts. This can lead to serious and sometimes life threatening health problems.

How does a person get sickle cell trait?

Sickle cell trait is inherited. This means it is passed down from parent to child through the genes. 
Genes are instructions for making all of our body parts and our features. They are the blueprints for making a human. Genes come in pairs. Half of our genes come from our mother and half from our father. 
Your child was born with the sickle cell trait. Your child inherited normal hemoglobin "A" gene from one parent and an "S" (sickle) gene from the other parent. This means at least one parent also has a sickle cell gene.

Why is it important to know your trait status?

It is inherited.  
Most people who have a trait do not know it because it does not make them sick. 
If both parents have the trait, their child may get two sickle cell genes (hemoglobin SS) and have sickle cell disease. 
When both parents have the trait, each baby has a one out of 4 chance of having sickle cell disease. These chances are true for every baby born to this couple. 
If proper testing shows one parent has the sickle trait and the other does not, there is very little chance of having a child with sickle cell disease. 

What do I need to do if my child has sickle cell trait?

Most people with sickle cell trait live normal, healthy lives.  
Rarely, some people with sickle cell trait have blood in their urine and would need to see their doctor.  
In rare and extreme conditions of very high altitude or intense physical activity at high heat, more serious problems have occurred.  
These problems can be avoided by decreasing the amount and intensity of a workout, drinking more water, taking breaks, and cooling down on hot sticky days.  More research is needed to find out why some people with sickle cell trait have problems and most others do not.  As your child grows, it is important to ask your doctor for any new information.  

How do I know if I have a trait?

A specific blood test can be done to find out if the parents have a sickle gene. 
You will not know if you have the trait unless you ask to have the test done. 
This blood test can have different names: Hemoglobin Identification, Electrophoresis, or HPLC. It is the only way to know for sure if you have the sickle cell trait. 
Other tests (e.g., Sickledex) may not find some traits. Do not assume you have had the proper test done before.
You may want to talk to a genetic counselor or your doctor about the test results, the risks to your children, and your choices. These counselors can also tell you about tests done during pregnancy that can find out if the baby has sickle cell disease.


Call your child’s doctor, nurse or clinic if you have any questions or concerns or if your child’s special health care needs were not covered by this information.