Low platelet count due to chemotherapy

Low platelet count due to chemotherapy

A low platelet count is called thrombocytopenia. Signs of a low platelet count are bruising, bleeding from the nose, gums or other parts of the body, black bowel motions, or vomit with specks of blood in it. To correct a low platelet count or to help stop bleeding, a transfusion of platelets may be given.

What do platelets do?

Platelets prevent bleeding occurring in the body by forming clots.

What is thrombocytopenia?

A low platelet count is called thrombocytopenia.

Signs of a low platelet count are:

  • bruising
  • bleeding from the nose, gums or other parts of the body that doesn't stop with pressure applied for more than ten minutes
  • black bowel motions
  • vomit which may have specks of blood in it or which looks like ground coffee

What is the treatment for thrombocytopenia?

To correct a low platelet count or to help stop bleeding, a transfusion of platelets may be given.

If your child requires a transfusion of blood or blood product, your child's doctor or nurse will give you some information leaflets from the New Zealand Blood Service (NZBS).

NZ Blood Service information

The New Zealand Blood Service ensures the supply of safe blood products. It has the responsibility for a national blood transfusion process from the collection of blood from volunteer donors to the transfusion of blood products within the hospital environment. There are some leaflets for patients available at the NZ Blood Service website, including:

  • Your guide to blood transfusion - a selection for different products
  • General information for patients
  • Consent form

What can I do to lessen the chance of bleeding?

  • use a soft toothbrush for your child's tooth cleaning. But, if your child has a sore mouth, you need to read the information about mouth care 
  • use a lip balm to keep your child's lips moist and to prevent cracked lips
  • show your child how to blow their nose gently. If a nose bleed does occur, sit your child on a chair (not lying down) and pinch the soft part of the nostrils below the hard nasal bones for five minutes
  • explain to your child that they cannot take part in physical activities and sports that may result in bruising or injury

Which medicines must I not give my child?

Do not give any medicine without first discussing this with your child’s doctor.

The following must not be given to children who are receiving chemotherapy:

  • aspirin and products containing aspirin
  • anti-inflammatory medicines
  • herbal products with anti-coagulant properties

Even small doses of these can stop normal clotting of the blood and bleeding can occur.

Give medicine for pain and fever only after discussion with your child's doctor.

Information on product labels may not be clear so check with your child's doctor.

Where to go for more information and support

On this website

Childhood cancer: Where to go for more information and support

All the information in the Childhood cancer section of this website has been written by health professionals who work in the field of paediatric oncology. They have been reviewed by the members of the National Child Cancer Network (NZ). Medical information is authorised by the National Child Cancer Network Clinical Leader.

This page last reviewed 23 April 2013.
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