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Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) in Children: Care Instructions


Immune thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP, is a blood problem. It happens when your child's immune system doesn't work as it should. The condition destroys platelets in the blood.

Platelets are a kind of cell in the blood. They have a sticky surface that helps them form clots to stop bleeding. Blood can't clot if it doesn't have enough platelets. This can cause abnormal bleeding.

The first symptoms of ITP are usually bruises without a known injury and little red dots under the skin from broken blood vessels. Often, a child who is diagnosed with ITP has had a recent cold or viral infection. In most cases, ITP goes away on its own after several months. But in some cases it may last longer.

ITP may not need treatment. But if your child has bleeding that doesn't stop, they may need medicine to help prevent the bleeding. If the bleeding is serious, your child may need to have platelets added to their blood. In rare cases, your child may need surgery to remove the spleen.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Give your child medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine.
  • Talk to your doctor before you give your child any new natural health products or over-the-counter or prescribed medicine.
  • Do not give your child aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medicines (such as ibuprofen or naproxen). Ask your doctor if it's okay to use acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Help protect your child from injury. When your child's platelet count is low, avoid activities with physical contact. And avoid any activity, such as biking, skating or climbing, that could put your child at risk for falling and hitting their head.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child has signs of severe bleeding. For example:
    • Your child has a severe headache that is different from past headaches.
    • Your child vomits blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
    • Your child's stools are maroon or very bloody.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child is dizzy or light-headed.
  • Your child has signs of abnormal bleeding, such as:
    • A nosebleed that you can't easily stop. This means it's still bleeding after pressure has been applied for 15 minutes.
    • Stools that are black and look like tar or that have streaks of blood.
    • Blood in the urine.
    • Joint pain.
    • Bruises or red or purple spots under the skin.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.