Kids and Bleeding Disorders

Unusual, unexplained bruising might be a reason to suspect a bleeding disorder.

By Patricia A. Clarke, MSN, APRN, CPNP, CPHON
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Hematology Oncology
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

March is National Bleeding Disorders Month

Our bodies are designed to stop the bleeding when we are cut or injured. The job of the blood is to carry oxygen to our brain and other tissues, so our blood needs to stay inside our bodies. Our blood has many substances to be able to form clots and stop the bleeding.

When a person is missing some of these substances or the substances do not work correctly, bleeding can continue for too long. This is called a bleeding disorder.

How do I know if my child has a bleeding disorder?

Some families know their children have a bleeding disorder because it is inherited. Inherited means the disorder is present in other family members (perhaps parents, grandparents, sisters or brothers).

Other families may not know their child has a bleeding disorder until the child bleeds for too long after a cut, an injury, surgery or even dental work.

Children often fall and get bruises when they play outside, this is normal. Some children bruise a lot and bruises appear in unusual places, or the child can’t remember hurting themselves. Unusual, unexplained bruising might be a reason to suspect a bleeding disorder.

Sometimes medications that a child may be taking can cause abnormal bleeding. Illness may cause easy bleeding, but this should go away after the child gets well.

Who can care for my child with a bleeding disorder?

Always report unusual bruising or bleeding (like nosebleeds that do not stop easily) to your child’s pediatrician. The pediatrician may order tests in their office to find reasons for the bleeding or bruising. The pediatrician might refer the child to a specially trained doctor called a pediatric hematologist.

A pediatric hematologist knows how to take care of people with bleeding disorders. Sometimes medications can be given for bleeding disorders, and other times medications are not necessary.

What do I need to know to keep my child safe if he or she is diagnosed with a bleeding disorder?

  • Avoid giving your child certain medications (such as aspirin or ibuprofen) which can make bleeding more likely.
  • Certain activities such as rough contact sports may be restricted.
  • Enforce wearing of helmets when riding a bike and wearing seat belts while riding in the car.
  • Keep all follow-up appointments with the pediatrician and pediatric hematologist; take all medications as prescribed.
  • Inform the school nurse and teachers about your child’s condition and what to do in case of emergency, including administration of prescribed medications.
  • Let friends and playmates know what to do in case the child gets cut or injured.
  • All new doctors and dentists must be informed your child has a bleeding disorder, especially if the child needs surgery or major dental work.
  • Have your child wear a medical alert bracelet/necklace. These are inexpensive and available for purchase online. Medical alert bracelets/necklaces identify a child with a bleeding disorder to people who may not know the child.

If you need help finding a pediatrician or a physician who specializes in pediatric hematology, visit this page.