A low white blood cell count usually means your body isn't making enough white blood cells. It can increase your risk of all sorts of infections.
What causes a low white blood cell count?
Common causes include:
Some groups, such as people of Afro-Caribbean and Middle Eastern descent, often have a low white blood cell count but this is normal and doesn't increase their risk of infections.
"Agranulocytosis" and "neutropenia" are common conditions that cause a low white blood cell count.
Treating a low white blood cell count
A blood test can tell you if your white blood cell count is low.
Your treatment will depend on what is causing your condition and will often include antibiotics.
You may also need specific treatment:
- to boost your white blood cells
- if you've got an infection
Signs of an infection may include:
- high temperature of 38C or above
- chills and shivering
- sore throat
- mouth sores that keep returning
- skin rashes
- flu-like symptoms
Occasionally, infections can lead to a life-threatening condition called sepsis.
See your GP if:
- you know you're at risk of a low white blood cell count and you get an infection
- you keep getting infections
Things you can do yourself to avoid infections
If you have a low white blood cell count caused by illness or medication you should take steps to avoid infections.
avoid close contact with people who are sick
store and prepare food properly to avoid food poisoning
wash your hands with soap and warm water regularly
use an electric shaver instead of a razor
avoid shared hot tubs
do not share food, cups, utensils, toothbrushes or make-up
do not eat raw foods, like meat, shellfish and eggs
do not change cat litter or handle animal poo
do not change nappies
do not walk outside barefoot
do not swim in ponds and rivers