Low Blood Count in Children

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Treatment of low blood count in children varies.
Treatment of low blood count in children varies. (Image: Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt)

Low blood counts in children are described by a number of terms and can be caused by a variety of conditions. The blood cells in babies and children are made in the bone marrow of different bones in the body. The specific cause and treatment of low blood counts are dependent on the type of low blood cell count.

Low White Blood Count

Several conditions can lead to a low white blood cell count. Leukopenia is a decrease in the number of white blood cells. A decrease in the number of neutrophils is called Neutropenia. Neutrophils are one type of white blood cell. Granulocytopenia is a decrease in the production levels of granulocytes. Granulocytes are a group of white blood cells that include eosinophils, basophils, and neutrophils. White blood cells perform disease fighting activities. In children, a low white blood count is determined by a number of factors, including sex and age. There are several subtypes of white blood cells. It is possible to have a low white blood count in only one of the subtypes.

Low Red Blood Count

Red blood cells transport oxygen and nutrients. Low red blood counts are detected by hemoglobin, hematocrit and RBC tests. The terms used to describe low blood counts are Myelosuppression and Pancytopenia. Myelosuppression is a decrease in the total production of blood cells. Pancytopenia is the decrease of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelet count.

Causes

A low white blood count in children can be caused by a number of conditions, including: congenital disorders, viral infections that interfere with bone marrow function, autoimmune disorders, cancer, diseases that damage bone marrow, drugs that damage or destroy bone marrow, and infections. The conditions associated with low white blood counts include leukemia, lupus, HIV/AIDS, hypothyroidism, sever allergic reactions, aplastic anemia, hypersplenism, myelofibrosis, myelodysplastic syndromes, rheumatoid arthritis, and myelokathexis. A low white blood count can be caused by vitamin deficiencies, radiation therapy, parasitic diseases and a number of other autoimmune and congenital disorders.

A low red blood count is caused by anemia. Anemia is a lower than normal amount of red blood cells in the blood. Anemia is usually caused by the rapid destruction of red blood cells or inadequate production of red blood cells. It can also be caused by iron deficiencies, lead poisoning, chronic diseases and kidney disease. Iron deficiency anemia affects children and teens of all ages who do not get enough iron or who lose red blood cells through bleeding.

Symptoms

Symptoms associated with a low white blood count include sores in the mouth, a white coating in the mouth or tongue, sore throat, blood in urine, burning with urination, and urges to urinate more often. Symptoms of a low red blood count include shortness of breath, fatigue, headaches, chest pain, weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, pale skin and an increase in heart rate. Infants and children with low red blood counts may not grow at the normal rates.

Treatments

One or a combination of drugs may be prescribed to treat low white blood cell counts. Antimicrobial medications are used to treat infections caught due to a suppressed immune system. Peg-Filgrastim (Neulasta), Filgrastim (Neupogen) and Sargramostim (Leukine) are used to prevent the white blood cell count from falling too low after chemotherapy. The doctor may also prescribe antibiotics.

Treatments for low red blood counts include the medications Epoetin alfa (PROCRIT) and Darbepoetin (Aranesp). The doctor may prescribe over the counter supplements, including a multivitamin and iron supplement and a high protein diet. In some cases, a red blood cell transfusion may be needed.

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