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Pancytopenia in Children



is low levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Red blood cells carry oxygen to all the organs and tissues in your child's body. White blood cells help your child's body fight infection by attacking and killing germs. Platelets stop the bleeding when your child is cut or injured. Pancytopenia increases your child's risk for infection and bleeding. Without treatment, these problems can become life-threatening.

Common signs and symptoms:

  • Feeling tired, weak, dizzy, or short of breath
  • Frequent fevers or infections
  • Pale skin or purple or red dots on the skin
  • Bleeding from the gums or nose, blood in bowel movements or urine, or heavy bleeding from a cut
  • Bruising easily, or getting bruises without an injury

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child cannot be woken.
  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • You cannot stop the bleeding from your child's wound even after you hold firm pressure for 10 minutes.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has a fever or chills.
  • Your child has blood in his or her urine or bowel movement.
  • Your child feels dizzy or he or she faints.
  • Your child's heart is beating faster than usual.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a rash or red or purple dots on his or her skin.
  • Your child feels more tired than usual.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Treatment for pancytopenia:

  • Medicines may be given to treat the cause of pancytopenia.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
  • A blood transfusion can help increase red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet levels. This may prevent bleeding or organ damage. This does not treat pancytopenia. Instead, a blood transfusion may keep your child safe until the cause of pancytopenia is known.
  • A stem cell transplant is a procedure to replace unhealthy stem cells with healthy cells. Stem cells are able to become all of the blood cells. Stem cells can also travel to your child's bone marrow and can become new bone marrow cells.

Balance your child's activity with rest:

Rest will help your child save energy for other activities. Your child should do activities when his or her energy levels are the highest. Do not plan too many activities for your child in one day.

Prevent or control bleeding:

  • Do not give your child aspirin or NSAIDs. These medicines can cause your child to bleed and bruise more easily.
  • Use caution with skin and mouth care. Have your child use a soft washcloth and a soft toothbrush. This can keep your child's skin and gums from bleeding. Keep your child's nails trimmed to prevent scratches.
  • Apply firm, steady pressure to stop bleeding from a wound. Apply pressure with a clean gauze or towel for 5 to 10 minutes. Call 911 if bleeding becomes heavy or does not stop.
  • Do not let your child play contact sports or do activities that can cause bleeding. Ask your healthcare provider what activities are safe for your child to do.

Prevent infection:

  • Wash your hands and your child's hands often. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
  • Keep your child away from crowds and anyone who may be sick. Do not let your child return to school or daycare until his or her healthcare provider says it is okay. Ask your child's healthcare provider if he or she needs to wear a mask in public places.
  • Offer your child low-bacteria foods as directed. This will help decrease your child's risk for an infection. You will need to choose, prepare, and cook foods that contain a low amount of bacteria. Examples include pasteurized milk, well-cooked meats, and cooked pasta. Ask your child's healthcare provider for more information on a low-bacteria diet.

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

Your child may need to return for blood tests frequently. He or she may also need regular blood transfusions. 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 Pancytopenia in Children (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

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