The sickle cell trait is present when a child inherits the sickle cell mutation from only one parent. The child does not get sickle cell disease, just the trait. This trait can then be passed on to future generations. When both parents have the sickle cell trait, there is a 1 in 2 chance that it will be passed on to their children. For those with the sickle cell trait, there is no specific treatment required. In most cases there are no symptoms; therefore, many don’t even know they have this trait.
Sickle cell trait is not – and can never become – sickle cell disease. If sickle cell trait is passed on to the child from both biological parents, then sickle cell disease will occur. About 100,000 people in the United States have sickle cell disease, most are of African descent.
There is no widely available cure for sickle cell disease. The only approved cure for sickle cell disease is a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. However, there are some treatments available to lessen the severity of the symptoms. Some patients may require monthly blood transfusions to replace their sickle red blood cells with healthy red blood cells. Donated blood is the only source of that treatment. For those patients, a compatible blood match is essential and is most commonly found from a donor of a same race or similar ethnicity. The Red Cross is testing for the presence of the sickle cell trait in blood donations from African Americans to help identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease. Individuals with sickle cell disease can require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lifetime to treat complications of their disease. Unfortunately, this can make finding compatible blood types more difficult when patients develop an immune response against blood from donors that is not closely matched to the blood of the recipient.
Most people with sickle cell trait do not have any symptoms of sickle cell disease. In rare cases, some people with sickle cell trait might experience complications of sickle cell disease, such as pain crises.
In extremely rare cases, the following conditions could be harmful for people with sickle cell trait:
The sickle cell trait is diagnosed with a simple blood test. For a limited time, the Red Cross is screening donations from self-identified African American blood donors for hemoglobin S, a key indicator of sickle cell trait. This screening, which may provide our donors with valuable health insights, will be part of the blood donation testing process and free of charge to donors. For more information visit the page on sickle cell trait screening.
Health experts recommend that individuals learn their sickle cell trait status and consult their medical provider on what it means for them. It is estimated that about 1 in 13 Black or African American babies in the U.S. is born with sickle cell trait, which means they have inherited the sickle cell gene from one of their parents.
Yes! Individuals with sickle cell trait are eligible – and encouraged – to donate blood.
In the United States, an estimated 100,000 people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds have sickle cell disease, with the majority being of African descent. Compatible blood transfusions are crucial to helping those patients in need. Blood from individuals of the same race or similar ethnicity is more likely to be compatible.
Scheduling an appointment for a blood donation has never been easier! Our Blood Donor App (over 2 million downloads and counting!) and online scheduler make it quick to set up your appointment. The need for donations is constant.
Donate blood and find out if you have the sickle cell trait. Help fight sickle cell disease. Schedule a blood donation today.