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Low White Blood Cell Count in Children

Low White Blood Cell Count in Children

Decreased white blood cell (WBC) count leads to several health complications. Prompt diagnosis and treatment helps improve the count quickly. Causes of low white blood cell count in children are described in this article. Read on, to know how to improve the immunity of your child.
Leena Palande
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
White blood cells (also called leukocytes) present in your blood determine your immunity. They are produced in the bone marrow. Their main function is to fight diseases, so low production of leukocytes can result in serious health problems.
Causes of Low WBC Count in Children
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Parasitic diseases
  • Treatments like chemotherapy, radiation
  • A viral infection can temporarily affect the function of the bone marrow and can lower the production of WBCs.
  • Repeated infections may use up WBCs faster than they can be synthesized.
  • Diseases like cancer can disrupt bone marrow function.
  • Use of certain medications and drugs (certain antibiotics and diuretics) results in impaired bone marrow function.
  • Too much of thyroid hormones produced by an overactive thyroid can cause leukopenia.
  • Sometimes, diminished bone marrow function is noticed at the time of birth of the child. Such congenital disorders can lead to low WBC count in children.
  • Dysfunction of the immune system or autoimmune diseases like lupus can cause low WBCs in children. Immune system attacks and destroys bone marrow cells and white blood cells.
  • Various diseases like aplastic anemia (body stops producing enough new blood cells), HIV / AIDS, arthritis, leukemia (cancer of the blood-forming tissues), lupus (a chronic inflammatory disease), myelofibrosis (a serious bone marrow disorder), Kostmann's syndrome (an inherited disorder of the bone marrow), enlargement of the spleen (hypersplenism leading to untimely destruction of blood cells by the spleen) can result in low white blood cell count in children.
Normal White Blood Cell Count
Although the normal WBC count range for children is the same as that for adults, newborn infants have a higher white blood cell count than adults. In adults 4,300 to 10,800 white blood cells are present per micro-liter (mcL) of blood. An adult can have around 7000 WBCs per cubic millimeter of blood. Newborn infants have very high number of WBCs on the day of birth. The count lowers down and reaches the normal levels within fifteen days. Normal white blood cell count in children varies according to the age and overall health. Infants may have WBCs between 9000 - 30,000. WBC count for a healthy child and a healthy adult is usually the same.
Normal range of WBCs for children is 4,300 to 10,800 per micro-liter (mcL) of blood (same as adults). Having WBCs less than 3,500 is considered as low white blood cell count or leukopenia; while having WBCs more than 11,000 is known as high WBC count or leukocytosis. Children under the age of one year may have slightly high number of WBCs. Having slightly lower or higher level of WBCs can be considered natural, as normal WBC level may vary from person to person.
How to Improve WBC Count in Children
Detecting the exact cause of low WBC count is essential as this helps design the treatment. WBCs are required to fight infections and diseases, so blood WBC level needs to be immediately improved. Blood test and bone marrow test help diagnose leukopenia. Nutritious healthy diet and supplements help prevent vitamin deficiency. After detecting the cause of decreased WBCs, the doctor may prescribe medications to treat the underlying disease.
During chemotherapy or radiation, one should religiously follow the instructions given by the doctor. If an abnormal drop in the level of WBCs is found, doctors may have to postpone the treatment. Healthy diet and medications help improve the condition faster. The medicines contain cytokines which trigger the production of white blood cells. Children with low WBC count should be kept away from the crowded places like malls (to avoid infections). This helps prevent the situation from worsening. Cleanliness is also necessary to avoid infections.
Prompt medication, nutritious diet and hygiene play an important role in raising the WBC count and bringing it to the normal level. Proper precautions and correct treatment help prevent serious health complications.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.