Platelets are very small cells in the blood that help with blood clotting. When your child does not have enough platelets, it is called thrombocytopenia. Signs of low platelets include:

  • Easy bruising
  • Bleeding (commonly from the gums or nose)
  • Petechia, tiny pink/purple freckle-like spots on the skin

If your child’s platelets are low:

  • Avoid activities that could cause an injury to the head, such as skateboarding, trampoline, cycling, skiing, or contact sports. 
  • Insist that your child use seat belts, car seats, and helmets.
  • Don’t use ibuprofen or aspirin because they may keep platelets from working properly.
  • Don’t use rectal medicine or thermometers.
  • Don’t use douches, enemas, or tampons.

If your child starts bleeding:

  • Apply pressure until bleeding stops.
  • To stop a nosebleed:
    • Have your child sit up and lean forward
    • Pinch the bridge of the nose over the bone for 10 minutes. (The pressure must be tight on both sides to be effective.)
    • A cold pack held on the nose could also be helpful

Call the clinic if:

  • Your child has a nosebleed that doesn’t stop after 10 minutes of pressure.
  • Your child begins to bleed or ooze blood from the gums.
  • Your child is injured by a fall while platelets are low.
  • You notice blood in a bowel movement — this can look like bright red blood or just a blackish bowel movement.
  • You notice blood in the urine — the urine can look pink.
  • Your child looks sick and you are concerned.
  • Your child has a severe headache.

During cancer treatment, if your child has any of these symptoms a complete blood count (CBC) helps doctors know if the problem is low platelets (thrombocytopenia). Your child may need a platelet transfusion. For more information about blood transfusions see the fact sheet below:

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