Aplastic Crisis

An aplastic crisis happens when the body stops making red blood cells. When the production of red blood cells shuts down, your child’s blood count may drop dangerously low.  This condition may last up to 10 days. 

What causes an aplastic crisis?

In a child with sickle cell disease of any type, an aplastic crisis can happen when the child is exposed to certain viruses.  The most common virus that causes an aplastic crisis is the parvovirus B19. This is a common infection in young and school-age children. 

What are the symptoms of aplastic crisis?

  • Pale color of lips, gums or fingernails
  • Fever (temperature of 101°F or greater)
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Loss of energy
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irritability

What is the treatment for aplastic crisis?

It will be necessary to draw blood from your child to check the hemoglobin level. If the hemoglobin level has dropped too low, a blood transfusion will be necessary. The blood transfusion is necessary to give your child blood cells until the body starts making its own red blood cells again. It may be necessary for your child to be hospitalized during the aplastic crisis for additional treatments or tests.  

It is very important for your child to follow up with his or her doctor within a week of discharge from the hospital to make sure that the hemoglobin level remains high enough.

Can an aplastic crisis happen more than once?

It is very unlikely that your child will have multiple aplastic crisises.  Once affected, immunity to parvovirus usually lasts a lifetime.