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Immune Thrombocytopenia in Children


Immune thrombocytopenia

is a bleeding disorder. Immune thrombocytopenia may happen when your child's immune system attacks and destroys his platelets. This causes low platelet levels. Platelets are cells that help the blood clot and stop bleeding. When platelet levels are low, bleeding may occur anywhere in the body. Immune thrombocytopenia may also be called idiopathic thrombocytopenia or ITP. Most ITP in children will get better in a few weeks to months. Medicines may be needed to treat ITP, or it may get better on its own. ITP in children can last for several months to years and can become a chronic condition.

Common signs and symptoms include the following:

Your child's signs and symptoms will depend on his platelet count. He may have no symptoms if his platelet levels are normal. He may have any of the following:

  • Bruising or red or purple spots on the skin or mucus membranes
  • Bleeding from the gums or nose
  • Blood in the urine or bowel movements
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding in adolescents

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child falls and hits his head.
  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child cannot be woken.
  • Your child has trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has a sudden, severe headache.
  • Your child is confused or has problems seeing, talking, or hearing.
  • Your child vomits repeatedly.
  • Your baby has a bulging soft spot (fontanel) on his head.
  • Your child has sudden weakness, numbness, or problems with his balance and movement.
  • Your child's bleeding does not stop or becomes heavier.
  • Your child's arm or leg looks bigger, feels warm, and is painful.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child is bleeding from his gums, mouth, or nose.
  • Your child has abdominal pain.
  • Your child has blood in his urine or bowel movement.
  • You see new bruises or small red or purple spots on your child's skin.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Treatment for immune thrombocytopenia

will depend on your child's platelet levels and symptoms. He may not need treatment if he has normal platelet levels or no symptoms. He may need medicine to stop his immune system from destroying platelets. Medicine may also be needed to help increase platelet levels and prevent bleeding. Medicine may be given as a pill or through an IV. Your child will need platelet transfusions if his platelet levels are low or he has heavy bleeding. He may need surgery to remove his spleen if other treatments do not work. Your child's immune thrombocytopenia may go away after treatment or may become a chronic condition.

Care for your child:

  • Care for your child's skin. Use a soft toothbrush to prevent your child's gums from bleeding. Have your child use lip balm to prevent his lips from cracking. Use a soft washcloth during baths or showers. Apply lotion to his dry skin. Do not cut his nails too short. Have your child wear slippers or shoes to protect his feet.
  • Do not let your child do activities that may cause injury. Ask your child's healthcare provider which activities are safe for him. Your child may not be able to play contact sports such as hockey, football, or boxing.
  • Do not give your child aspirin or NSAIDs. These medicines can stop platelets from working well. This may cause him to bleed and bruise more easily.
  • Care for your child's cuts, scrapes or nosebleeds. Apply firm, steady, pressure to cuts or scrapes. Use gauze or a clean towel. If possible, elevate the body part above the level of his heart. If your child's nose bleeds, pinch the top of his nose and his nostrils. Do this until bleeding stops.
  • Have your child carry medical alert identification. Have him wear jewelry or carry a card that says he has immune thrombocytopenia. Ask your child's healthcare provider where to get these items.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Your child will need to return for blood tests to monitor his platelet levels. He may also need other tests. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Immune Thrombocytopenia in Children (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.