Low White Blood Cell Count Causes

low white blood cell count treatment diet

The low white blood cell count is that the decrease in the disease – fighting cells (leukocytes) in the blood. The low white blood cell count is almost always related to a decrease in certain type of white blood cells (called neutrophil). The definition of low white blood cell count can vary from one medical practice to another. Usually, for adults a count lower than 4,000 white blood cells per micro liter of blood is considered as low white blood cell count [1]. For children, this is varying with the age. In some people, who are otherwise healthy, have white cell counts which are lower than what is usually considered as normal, but these levels are normal for them.

If you have low white blood cell count, then this can increase your risk of all sorts of infections. You need to avoid close contact with people, who are sick, if you have low white blood cell count that is caused by medication or illness. Also, you need to store and prepare food properly to avoid food poisoning. You need to wash your hands with soap and warm water on regular basis. You should use an electric shaver instead of a razor. You need to avoid shared hot tubs. You should not share make – up, toothbrushes, utensils, cups or food with other people.

You should not eat raw foods, like eggs, shellfish and meat. You should not change the cat litter or handle animal poop. You should not change nappies. You should not walk outside barefoot. You should not swim in ponds and rivers. Usually, the low white blood cell count is found when your doctor makes tests for a condition which you have already experiencing. It is simply discovered by chance or it is rarely unexpected finding. You need to talk with your doctor about what your test results mean.

The low white blood cell count, along with the results from other tests, might already indicate the cause for your illness. Also, your doctor can suggest other tests to further check your condition. You need to ask your doctor about precautions to avoid catching contagious diseases, because the low white blood cell count can make you vulnerable to infections.

low white blood cell count

The low white blood cell count causes

The white blood cells are made in the bone marrow. This is spongy tissue inside some of your larger bones. Usually, the low white blood cell count is caused by:

  • Sarcoidosis (collection of inflammatory cells in the body) [2]
  • A viral infections that temporarily disrupt the work of bone marrow
  • Certain medications, such as antibiotics, that destroy white blood cells
  • Some disorders present at birth (congenital) that involve diminished bone marrow function
  • A severe infections that use up white blood cells faster than they can be produced
  • An autoimmune disorders that destroy white blood cells or bone marrow cells [3]
  • Cancer or other diseases that damage bone marrow [4]

The specific causes of a low white blood cell count include:

  • Tuberculosis (and other infectious diseases) [5]
  • Aplastic anemia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders [3]
  • Chemotherapy [4]
  • Radiation therapy [4]
  • The Kostmann’s syndrome (a congenital disorder involving low production of neutrophils)
  • HIV/AIDS [6]
  • The myelokathexis (a congenital disorder involving failure of neutrophils to enter the bloodstream)
  • Myelodylastic syndromes
  • The hypersplenism (an abnormality of the spleen causing blood cell destruction) [7]
  • Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies
  • Lupus [8]
  • Leukemia

Your doctor will make a blood test to tell if you have low white blood cell count. The treatment will depend on the cause for your condition and often, it includes antibiotics. Also, you may need specific treatment to boost your white blood cells and if you have got an infection.

Signs of infection

Here are the signs of infection:

  • Flu – like symptoms
  • High temperature of 38C or above
  • Tiredness
  • Chill and shivering
  • Skin rashes
  • Sore throat
  • Toothache
  • Mouth sores that keep returning

There are some cases when infections can lead to life – treating condition, called sepsis. If you know that you are at risk of a low white blood cell count and you get an infection, then you need to see your doctor as soon as possible. Also, if you keep getting infections, then talk with your doctor.


[1] Territo M. Overview of white blood cell disorders. MSD Manual. 2020. Retrieved from www.msdmanuals.com/home/blood-disorders/white-blood-cell-disorders/overview-of-white-blood-cell-disorders

[2] American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Statement on sarcoidosis. 1999;160(2).

[3] Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Autoimmune disease: Retraining white blood cells. Science Daily. 2012. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121217152645.htm

[4] Kabat GC, Kim MY, Manson JE, et al. White blood cell count and total and cause-specific mortality in the women’s health initiative. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2017;186(1):63–72. doi:10.1093/aje/kww226

[5] Rohini K, Surekha Bhat M, Srikumar PS, Mahesh Kumar A. Assessment of hematological parameters in pulmonary tuberculosis patients. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry. 2016;31(3):332–5.

[6] Wan Mohamad WM, Wan Ab Rahman WS, Ahmed Al-Salih SA, Che Hussin CM. Immunological and haematological changes in HIV infection. 2015. Retrieved from www.intechopen.com/books/trends-in-basic-and-therapeutic-options-in-hiv-infection-towards-a-functional-cure/immunological-and-haematological-changes-in-hiv-infection

[7] Lv Y, Lau Wy, Li Y, et al. Hypersplenism: History and current status. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. 2016;12(4):2377–82. doi:10.3892/etm.2016.3683

[8] Fayyaz A, Igoe A, Kurien BT, et al. Haematological manifestations of lupus. Lupus Science & Medicine. 2015;2:e000078. doi:10.1136/lupus-2014-000078


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