Low Platelet Count (Thrombocytopenia)

Platelets stop bleeding in the body by forming clots. When the platelet count is low, your child may be at risk for bleeding. A normal platelet count is between 150,000 and 300,000.

Signs of a low platelet count

If your child has a low platelet count, you may see one or more of the following signs:
  • Bruising or petechiae (small, red, pinpoint spots on the skin)
  • Bleeding from the nose, gums or central venous access device that doesn’t stop after applying pressure for 5 - 10 minutes
  • Black stools or vomit (this may mean blood is in the stomach or bowel)
Any child with a low platelet count should not play contact sports (football, rugby), and use a soft toothbrush when brushing teeth to prevent bleeding of the gums.

If your child gets a nose bleed, sit your child upright as you apply pressure to the outsides of each nostril, just below the bridge. Pinch the area with your thumb and finger and hold the pressure for 10 minutes. If the bleeding does not stop, call your healthcare provider.

Other Bleeding Issues

In general, you need to be cautious of anything that might cause bleeding in your child.

Do not give your child an enema or a suppository (medicine put into the rectum), and do not check a rectal temperature. Also, do not give your child aspirin (salicylate) or ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®, or Pediaprofen) unless you are told to do so by your healthcare team. These medicines cause the platelets to be unable to form clots, which stop bleeding. Some over-the-counter medicines like cold and flu medicines contain aspirin or ibuprofen. Read the labels and check with your healthcare provider before giving your child any over-the-counter medicines.

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The information and content provided on this website is made available for informational purposes only for children and their families affected by cancer. While the Children's Oncology Group strives to provide accurate and up-to-date information, the information may be out of date or incomplete in certain respects. Please do not rely on this information and seek the care of a qualified medical professional if you have questions regarding a specific medical condition, disease, diagnosis or symptom. The information and content presented herein is not intended to replace the independent clinical judgement, medical advice, screening, health counseling, or other intervention performed by your (or your child's) health care provider. Please contact "911" or your emergency services if this is a health emergency. No endorsement of any specific tests, products, or procedures is made herein.