Low Platelets

A low platelet count can make you feel tired and fatigued.

There are three main types of cells in your blood; white cells, red cells and platelets. Platelets help the blood to clot so that heavy bleeding does not occur when you cut or hurt yourself. When there are not enough platelets in the blood, you may bruise or bleed easily.

How can I tell if my platelets are low?
The only true way to know if your platelets are low is to have a blood sample taken. The lab technician will count the number of platelets in your blood. This is called a platelet count.

A normal platelet count is 150 or higher, but it may drop as low as 75 to 100 without serious harm during chemotherapy.

Signs of a low platelet count:

  • Easy bruising
  • Tiny pinpoint red or purple dots on your skin
  • Unusual or heavy nosebleeds
  • Red or pink coloured urine
  • Black, tar-like stools (bowel movements), or blood in the stools
  • Red or brown coloured sputum or vomit
  • Dizziness, constant headache or blurred vision (this may happen with bleeding in the head)
  • Bleed from your gums, especially when brushing your teeth
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding

What should i do if I notice any of these symptoms ?
Even if you feel reasonably well with these symptoms, you must contact your doctor or nurse immediately! A very low platelet count is a medical emergency. You may need a platelet transfusion.

During business hours (8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.), call the LRCP telephone triage nurse at 519-685-8600 and press '3' if you have these symptoms. The nurse will direct your care.

After hours, holidays, and on weekends, call your Family Physician or go to your nearest Emergency Department.

Know when to expect your platelets to be low, and watch for any bleeding during these times. Your nurse or doctor will tell you when to expect low platelet counts.

What you should do when your platelet count is low:

DO:

  • Before buying any prescription or over the counter medications, tell your pharmacist that your platelet count may be low
  • Avoid strenuous exercise because you will bruise more easily
  • Use a soft bristle toothbrush, or toothettes to clean your teeth
  • Be careful when using sharp knives, scissors and other sharp items
  • If you cut yourself, clean the area well and apply firm pressure with a clean cloth for at least 5 minutes
  • Check with your doctor before you have any dental check-ups or dental procedures
  • Inform your dentist about your condition when you call to make appointments
  • Prevent constipation. If you need a laxative or stool softener, ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist for help
  • Use a water-based lubricant during sexual intercourse to reduce the chance of bleeding.

DO NOT:

  • take ASA products during treatment. Use Acetaminophen products if needed (see below)
  • use rectal suppositories or enemas for constipation
  • take your temperature with a rectal thermometer
  • shave with razor blades
  • participate in contact sports or other activities that could cause bruising
  • blow your nose with too much force (a nosebleed could be started)

Check with your doctor or pharmacist if a product contains ASA or Acetaminophen.

Common Products Containing Acetaminophen (OK to take) : Tylenol®, Atasol®, Excedrin®, Abenol® Suppositories, and some cold preparations. 

Common Products Containing ASA (do not take): Aspirin®, Bufferin®, Anacin®, Entrophen®, Novasen®, Aspergum®, some Alka-Seltzer® products, and some cold preparations.

Helpful Links:

Canadian Cancer Society

Healthline

Mayo Clinic (U.S.A.)

 

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Last Updated November 12, 2013 | © 2007, LHSC, London Ontario Canada