In this section
Make an Appointment
Make an appointment
To make an appointment: call the Central Scheduling or use the "request an appointment" button to submit your request online.(877) 607-5280
- Parents Home
- Allergy Center
- Asthma Center
- Cancer Center
- Diabetes Center
- A to Z
- Emotions & Behavior
- First Aid & Safety
- Food Allergy Center
- General Health
- Growth & Development
- Flu Center
- Heart Health
- Helping With Homework
- Diseases & Conditions
- Nutrition & Fitness Center
- Play & Learn Center
- School & Family Life
- Pregnancy & Newborn Center
- Sports Medicine Center
- Doctors & Hospitals
- Para Padres
- Kids Home
- Asthma Center for Kids
- Cancer Center for Kids
- Movies & More
- Diabetes Center for Kids
- Getting Help
- Puberty & Growing Up
- Health Problems of Grown-Ups
- Health Problems
- Homework Center
- How the Body Works
- Illnesses & Injuries
- Nutrition & Fitness Center for Kids
- Recipes & Cooking for Kids
- Staying Healthy
- Stay Safe Center
- Relax & Unwind Center
- Q&A for Kids
- The Heart
- Videos for Kids
- Staying Safe
- Kids' Medical Dictionary
- Para Niños
- Teens Home
- Asthma Center for Teens
- Be Your Best Self
- Cancer Center for Teens
- Diabetes Center for Teens
- Diseases & Conditions (for Teens)
- Drugs & Alcohol
- Expert Answers (Q&A)
- Flu Center for Teens
- Homework Help for Teens
- Infections (for Teens)
- Managing Your Medical Care
- Managing Your Weight
- Nutrition & Fitness Center for Teens
- Recipes for Teens
- Safety & First Aid
- School & Work
- Sexual Health
- Sports Center
- Stress & Coping Center
- Videos for Teens
- Para Adolescentes
What Is Neutropenia?
Neutropenia (noo-treh-PEE-nee-eh) is when the blood doesn't have enough of a type of white blood cell. These cells, called neutrophils, fight bacteria. Bacteria are germs that cause infections. Without enough neutrophils, serious infections can happen.
Most children with neutropenia need medical care right away if they have any signs of an infection. Common signs include fevers, spreading redness around a cut, and shivering or chills. With quick treatment, most infections in children with neutropenia get better.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Neutropenia?
Compared with other kids, a child with neutropenia may have infections:
- more often
- that are more severe
- that get worse quickly
The symptoms depend on what kind of infection the child has (for example, ear pain in a child with an ear infection).
What Causes Neutropenia?
Someone with neutropenia has a low number of neutrophils (NOO-treh-filz) in the bloodstream.
Neutropenia can be due to:
- medicines (such as chemotherapy)
- radiation therapy
- a genetic (inherited) problem
- the bone marrow (the spongy part inside bones that makes blood cells) not working well
- the germ-fighting immune system attacking the neutrophils (called autoimmune neutropenia)
- be present at birth (congenital neutropenia)
- come and go (cyclic neutropenia)
Sometimes doctors don't know what causes a person's neutropenia (called idiopathic neutropenia).
How Is Neutropenia Diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose neutropenia with a blood test called a complete blood count (CBC).
To find out why a child has neutropenia, a hematologist (a doctor who specializes in blood diseases) will:
- look at the child's blood under a microscope
- take a tiny amount of bone marrow to study under a microscope
- do tests for infections
- do genetic tests
How Is Neutropenia Treated?
Treatment for neutropenia depends on its cause and how severe it is. Not all cases need treatment.
Doctors use the ANC (absolute neutrophil count) to help them make decisions about treatment. The ANC is a blood test that measures the number of neutrophils. The lower the number is, the more likely the child is to get serious infections.
Treatment, when needed, can include:
- correcting the neutropenia through:
- injections of granulocyte colony-stimulating growth factor (G-CSF) to push the bone marrow to make more neutrophils
- steroid medicines to stop the body's immune system from attacking the neutrophils
- white blood cell transfusions to give the child more infection-fighting cells
- stem cell transplant to replace the blood-forming stem cells with healthy donated stem cells
- surgical removal of the spleen (splenectomy) since the spleen can sometimes destroy neutrophils
- preventing and treating infections with antibiotics
- for children with very low neutrophil counts who are at very high risk for infection:
- avoiding public places, including schools
- avoiding sick people
- wearing a face mask if they must go out
- washing hands well and often
- brushing and flossing teeth every day
- not using a rectal thermometer
- cleaning cuts right after injury, then covering with a bandage
- not using razors
- avoiding certain foods, including:
- unpasteurized dairy foods
- raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts
- raw honey
How Can Parents Help?
To help your child, follow the doctor's instructions on:
- getting scheduled blood tests
- taking any medicines
- preventing infections
When Should I Call the Doctor?
It's important to find care right away if kids with neutropenia have any signs of infection. Quick treatment usually helps them get better.
Call the doctor right away if you see any signs or symptoms of an infection, such as:
- a fever above 100.4°F (38°C)
- chills and/or sweats
- shortness of breath
- mouth sores
- sore throat
- pain when peeing
- red area around a break in the skin
- vomiting or diarrhea
- new pain
What Else Should I Know?
Having a child with a serious medical condition can feel overwhelming for any family. But you don't have to go it alone. Talk to anyone on the care team about ways to find support. You also can visit online sites for more information and support, such as:
- Keeping Your Child Healthy During Cancer Remission
- Radiation Therapy
- Cancer Center
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995- KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.