Complications of sickle cell anaemia include vascular occlusion triggered by the adherence of sickle erythrocytes to endothelium in the postcapillary venules. Adherence can be promoted by inflammatory mediators that induce endothelial cell adhesion molecule expression and arrest flowing erythrocytes. The present study characterised the effect of histamine stimulation on the kinetics of sickle cell adherence to large vessel and microvascular endothelium under physiological flow. Increased sickle cell adherence was observed within minutes of endothelial activation by histamine and reached a maximum value within 30 min. At steady state, sickle cell adherence to histamine-stimulated endothelium was 47 ± 4 adherent cells/mm 2, 2·6-fold higher than sickle cell adherence to unstimulated endothelial cells. Histamine-induced sickle cell adherence occurred rapidly and transiently. Studies using histamine receptor agonists and antagonists suggest that histamine-induced sickle cell adhesion depends on simultaneous stimulation of the H 2 and H 4 histamine receptors and endothelial P-selectin expression. These data show that histamine release may promote sickle cell adherence and vaso-occlusion. In vivo histamine release should be studied to determine its role in sickle complications and whether blocking of specific histamine receptors may prevent clinical complications or adverse effects from histamine release stimulated by opiate analgesic treatment. © 2005 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.