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Managing Treatment for Low White Blood Cell Count

By , Caring.com senior editor
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When someone's white blood cell count is low, his immune system isn't as strong as usual and he's at increased risk of infection, a condition known as neutropenia. The lower his white blood cell count is -- and the longer it stays low -- the higher the risk that he'll get sick or contract some type of infection. (Normal white blood cell counts range from 4,500 to 11,000 WBCs per cubic millimeter of blood. For more information, see understanding low white blood cell counts.

What signs should I watch for that indicate someone's white blood cell count is in the danger zone?

  • Fever is often the first sign of infection, so keep an eye on his temperature. Call his doctor if his temperature climbs above 100 degrees.

  • Other common -- and sometimes overlooked -- areas of potential infection are the bladder and gastrointestinal system, so watch for stomach cramps, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and urination problems.

  • Beware of cuts and scratches, and always apply antibiotic ointment and keep them covered, no matter how small and harmless they seem.

  • Make note of sore gums, mouth sores, or canker sores, since these are common sites of infection. Remember, his resistance isn't what it would normally be, so his body can't fight off even normally harmless bacteria.

  • A cough, sore throat, sneezing, or headache can indicate a sinus or lung infection, so call the doctor if any of these symptoms develop. If he develops a fever or infection while suffering from neutropenia, he may need to go into the hospital for intravenous antibiotics until his body builds up enough white blood cells to fight off the infection.