Children suffering from low platelet count are at a risk of bleeding more when compared to others. Is there a solution? Read on to find out.
By Ashwin Dewan
After last week’s visit to the family doctor, Rati Agnihotri, mother to six-year-old Drupad, is worried for her son. For the past few months, Rati has been noticing that whenever Drupad sustained an injury or a cut during play, the bleeding would continue for a long time. Initially, Rati thought it wasn’t anything serious. However, when it persisted, she sought medical opinion and discovered her son was suffering from thrombocytopenia – a condition caused by a low platelet count in the blood. This caused her son to bleed excessively when compared to other children.
Often, children with a low platelet count are prone to bleeding and bruising easily. Even a minor injury like a cut after a fall may lead to excess bleeding.
“Typically, the normal range for platelet count is 1,50,000 to 3,00,000 per microlitre of blood. In the case of thrombocytopenia, the patient’s platelet count would be well below the normal count of 1,50,000. When there is a significant drop in the platelet count, say below 20,000, additional platelets need to be given through transfusion* to support the child as there is a serious risk of excessive blood loss during injury,” says Dr Santanu Sen, Consultant in Paediatrics, Paediatric Oncology & Stem Cell Transplantation.
*Transfused platelets only last for three days; so some children may require more than one transfusion.
The University of Rochester Medical Center’s Health Encyclopedia describes platelets thus: “Platelets are tiny blood cells that help your body form clots to stop bleeding. If one of your blood vessels gets damaged, it sends out signals that are picked up by platelets. The platelets then rush to the site of damage and form a plug or clot to repair the damage.” So, if your child gets a cut anywhere on his body during play or an accident, the platelets will be responsible for stopping the bleeding. But, in the case of low platelet count, excess blood loss can occur and this could lead to health conditions like anaemia.
1. Thrombocytosis: If your child has over 4,50,000 platelets, it is not a healthy count. In fact, it can be a sign of thrombocytosis. The excess number of platelets in the blood may indicate a blood and bone marrow disease.
There are two types of thrombocytosis:
a) Primary thrombocytosis: This is caused by the presence of abnormal cells in the bone marrow.
b) Secondary thrombocytosis: This is caused by anaemia or cancer.
2. Thrombocytopenia: If your child has less than 1,50,000 platelets, it is a sign of thrombocytopenia. Symptoms of such a low platelet count include easy bruising, frequent bleeding from the gums and nose, and abnormal bleeding from cuts.
“Blood transfusion plays no role in increasing the platelet count,” says Dr Sen. “At the most, transfusion will only improve haemoglobin levels for an anaemic child. For the platelet count to move up, the child who has a low platelet count will need a platelet transfusion. Treatment and medication can also help ease the condition,” he adds.
Often, the medication to boost platelet count in children is expensive and treatment options involve hospitalisation. While many cases may require the child to undergo medical treatment, the best way to increase platelet count in children is through the consumption of certain foods such as:
Although it is difficult to prevent the occurrence of excessive bleeding completely in children suffering from low platelet count or thrombocytopenia, certain tips may help as mentioned below:
If you suspect your child may have a low platelet count, a simple blood test will confirm or rule it out. Also, having a low platelet count does not mean your child should stop playing games or going out completely, for fear of an injury or a cut. If proper preventive measures are followed, including ways to control the bleeding, as advised by your doctor, then it will go a long way in helping your child.
With inputs from Dr Santanu Sen, Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, Cancer and blood disorder in children, stem cell transplantation.
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