10 Causes of High Platelet Count in Children

Causes of High Platelet Count in Children

A high platelet count, also known as thrombocytosis, indicates that there are too many thrombocytes or platelets in the blood. These are cells that help the blood to clot.  An increase in platelet count is not an unusual occurrence in young children.

The normal platelet level ranges between 150,000 to 450,000 for every microliter of blood.

Undergoing medical procedures and specific tests for platelet count help diagnose possible blood platelet disorders along with any abnormal changes especially to related factors like bone marrow functionality.

With regards to children, unless there are other accompanying factors which may be of concern, then it really isn’t necessary for parents to worry much about the presence of high platelet count in children. Not unless the condition persists and cannot be corrected by itself. Watch out for these high platelet count symptoms.


Common Causes of High Platelet Count in Children

1.  Benign Increase

Up to 13 percent of children suffer from thrombocytosis, according to “Thrombocytosis in Childhood” by E.  Mantadakis.  An increase in the number of platelets does not always indicate an underlying disease.  If it is benign, it could be a temporary result of medications, blood loss or surgery.

Infection is the most common cause of platelet elevation in children.  Laboratory tests involve the process where a sample of venous blood is taken, diluted and the platelets are counted — something usually done by passing the sample through an electric counter.  However, automated counting has often been associated with falsely identified elevation in platelet counts.

Venous blood is the deoxygenated blood that flows from the peripheral vessels (tiny capillary blood vessels), through progressively larger veins of the venous system into the right atrium of the heart. The venous system is composed of blood vessels that carry blood towards the heart.

2.  Possible Diseases

An elevated platelet count can be a sign of serious medical conditions such as connective tissue diseases, kidney disease, liver tumors, some anemias,  polycythemia vera, inflammatory bowel disease, or leukemia. It can be indicative of a disorder that causes the bone marrow to produce more than the normal amount of platelets.

If a child is very ill, then a complete patient history and physical examination will be necessary, and a range of other tests may be included in treatment, to rule out such conditions.

Platelet levels may require regular monitoring until it is certain that the amount have not only returned to normal, but is going to remain that way.

3.  Primary and Secondary Thrombocytosis

Most cases of thrombocytosis in children are secondary in nature, which means that an increase in platelets occurs as the result of another condition, benign or not.

Primary or essential thrombocytosis, where the condition develops on its own, is rare.  It has an incidence of about one in 1 million children.  It follows a variable course and is not well understood.  This medical condition increases platelet amount to levels above 600,000 per microliter resulting to the spleen becoming enlarged.

Unfortunately, if this condition does not improve, then removal of the spleen may be necessary.  But this is of extreme measure.

4.  Inflammation

One of the many causes of higher platelet count in children is inflammation.  Platelets are also known as “acute phase reactants”, which just means that they rise in number whenever there is inflammation (like an infection).

Infections whether minor or severe can have a drastic effect on platelets, which is why whenever a child experiences a problem with high or low platelet levels, tests should be performed to rule out any infection first, before worrying about other causes.

5.  Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency can also cause high platelet count in children, but then the person is usually anemic, because these two problems normally occur together.  Another condition which may not require doctor intervention, but certainly needs to be monitored.

6.  Dehydration

It’s not uncommon for many children to exhibit an elevated platelet count when they are slightly dehydrated. It should return to normal once they drink enough fluids to end their dehydration.

With all the running around and playing that children do every day, they don’t have to be sick to become dehydrated, so don’t dismiss the idea just because they aren’t ill.

7.  Folic Acid Deficient

The solution to this is usually to take daily multivitamins, but if that fails to do the job, you have to look for other causes.  The human body is a complicated thing and there can be hidden reasons for something abnormal to be going on.

8.  Reactive Thrombocytosis

It is a secondary or reactive process due to infection, iron deficiency, drugs, chronic inflammation, cancer, tissue damage, and surgical or functional splenectomy.

In 72-86% of the children who develop this condition, it’s usually mild – where moderate goes for about 6-8%, and 0.5-3% for extreme.  If  the condition persists then a consultation with a pediatric hematologist will be necessary.

In the majority of cases, no treatment is needed and the patient must be only closely monitored.

9.  Essential Thrombocytosis

For most children who experience thrombocytosis, it is usually self-limiting and does not necessitate any treatment.  But if repeat blood testing shows a prolonged, unexplained elevation of platelet numbers and misshapen or abnormal platelets, a physician should explore the situation further.

Bleeding problems could exist, like the inability of the blood to clot.  Essential thrombocytosis can be fatal.  For those children so afflicted, the platelet count can reach levels of over 2 million per microliter.

Essential thrombocythemia is an uncommon disorder in which the body creates too many blood platelets (thrombocytes).  It’s also known as primary thrombocythemia.

The most common symptoms of this are headache, lightheadedness, vision changes, and tingling, numbness or burning pain in the hands and feet.

10. Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

Fortunately, for children, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpora usually runs its course without requiring treatment.  Around 80% of children who have idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpora recover fully within six months.  Even in children who develop chronic ITP, full recovery can still happen, even years down the road.

While it is rare, regardless of age or platelet count, severe bleeding can occur with ITP.  If this is the case, or if the bleeding becomes widespread, then these are considered life-threatening conditions and require emergency care.  This normally includes transfusions of platelet concentrates, intravenous methylprednisolone (a type of corticosteroid) and intravenous immune globulin.

Most especially with children, because of the possible severe complications of the disease and its treatment, it’s vital for you and the doctor to carefully weigh the benefits and risks of treatment for the child.

So to sum things up, a high platelet count in children should be monitored, but is probably nothing to worry much about.  In fact, it’s normal for children to have this condition.  Before you panic, wait and see if the platelet count will adjust itself.  In most cases it will, and that will be the end of the problem. Read about ITP treatment options.

If it keeps recurring, then perhaps something more serious may be wrong and your physician should pursue the matter.



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