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Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in Children: Care Instructions


Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood cells. It is also called acute myelogenous leukemia. In AML, some young white blood cells called myeloblasts don't mature like they should. Instead, they become leukemia cells. These leukemia cells can crowd out the healthy blood cells. This makes a child more likely to bleed, get infections, and not have enough red blood cells (anemia).

Your child's doctor will make a treatment plan based on the type of AML that your child has. Chemotherapy is usually the main treatment. Other treatments may include a stem cell transplant and targeted therapy. A clinical trial is also an option. Your child may get medicine for the side effects of treatment, such as nausea and tiredness.

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?

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with the medicine. Your child may get medicine for nausea and vomiting.
  • Give your child healthy food. If your child doesn't feel like eating, serve food that has protein and calories to keep up your child's strength and weight. Try a liquid meal replacement for extra calories and protein. Milk shakes are also good choices. Your child's appetite may be better early in the day. Try giving your child the main meal early.
  • Let your child play. Your child's treatment team can tell you what kinds of activities are okay. Cancer treatment can be hard, but children still need to feel like kids.
  • Put your child to bed early enough to get plenty of rest. And allow your child to nap during the day if they want to.
  • Give your child lots of fluids. This is very important if your child is vomiting or has diarrhea. Give your child sips of water or drinks such as Pedialyte or Gastrolyte. These drinks contain a mix of salt, sugar, and minerals. You can buy them at drugstores or grocery stores. Give these drinks as long as your child is throwing up or has diarrhea. Do not use them as a sole source of liquids or food for more than 12 to 24 hours. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if diarrhea or vomiting lasts longer than a day.
  • When your child is feeling better, give them clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 hours. Other good choices include dry toast, crackers, cooked cereal, and gelatin dessert, such as Jell-O.
  • Try to keep your child away from people who have a cold, influenza (flu), or other diseases that can be spread. Wash your hands often.

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).

Call your cancer clinic nurse (during regular clinic hours) or oncologist on-call (after hours) now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has abnormal bleeding.
  • You think your child has an infection.
  • Your child has new or worse pain.
  • Your child has new symptoms, such as a cough, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or a rash.

Where can you learn more?

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