Complications of SCD: Infection

At a glance

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a group of inherited blood disorders associated with severe pain and complications that can affect the entire body. This page provides information on SCD and infections.

Mother checking daughter temperature with an ear thermometer.


People with SCD, especially infants and children, are more likely to experience harmful infections, such as the flu, meningitis, and pneumonia. Pneumonia is a leading cause of death in infants and young children with SCD. People with SCD who require regular transfusions as part of their treatment are also at increased risk for viral hepatitis.

Symptoms may vary by the type of infection, but fever may be the first sign. An infection can be life-threatening for people with SCD, and they should go to the emergency department or hospital immediately for treatment if they think they might have an infection.


Children and adults with SCD should get all recommended vaccinations, including a flu vaccination. People with SCD are considered "high risk" for certain infections and should follow a special vaccination schedule for the following vaccines:

Additionally, for children under 5 years of age, daily penicillin (or other antibiotic prescribed by a doctor) is recommended.