Is there anything I can take to boost my white blood count?

Coralheidie asked...

I took Methotrexate for rheumatoid arthritis for eight years. Now I have a very low white blood cell count so I stopped taking the medication seven weeks ago. My white cell count has not risen yet and remains static. Is there anything I can take to boost my white blood cell count? I've also had anemia for 12 years and take iron to treat that.

Expert Answer

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is the author of a popular blog and podcast at She is also a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics.

Yes. Prescription-strength folate supplements can help bump up a low white blood cell count, especially if these supplements weren’t being taken before discontinuing the methotrexate medication. Methotrexate is a good treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, but as you now know, it can cause low blood counts in a small number of people.  Usually methotrexate-induced low blood counts improve within a month of stopping the drug.   If the white blood cell count doesn’t improve, doctors sometimes recommend granulocyte colony stimulating factor, also known as G-CSF, (brand names: Neulasta and Neupogen), which can stimulate the cells in the bone marrow that make white blood cells.

You also mention anemia, which means your red blood cell count is low as well.  Although this is often due to a lack of iron, you don’t say whether your anemia has been thoroughly evaluated.  Since your white blood cell count has not improved now that you’ve stopped methotrexate, and you are also anemic, it might be worthwhile to get a complete blood work up from a hematologist (blood specialist), if your doctor hasn’t already recommended that you have this done.