Low Neutrophils in Babies: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Low Neutrophils in Babies: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Last update: 02 August, 2018

Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that can make up to 70% of all leucocytes present in our blood. However, low neutrophils in babies are common. What can we do?

Neutrophils: why are they important?

Low neutrophils in babies can be a source of concern for any parent. It’s important to be well informed, so keep reading to learn about this issue. 

What are they?

Low neutrophils, also known as neutropenia, refer to a low amount of white cells (also called neutrophils). White cells are present in our organism for the purpose of fighting off infections.

Low Neutrophils in Babies


Neutrophils are very important for any person’s organism, particularly for babies. They help protect children against serious infections.

When a bacterial infection manifests in the human body, the first immune cells to detect said attack are the neutrophils. They are the first to travel to the site of infection, thus protecting the baby.

What are normal neutrophil values?

To establish whether the neutrophil count is low, we must first be aware of the expected values for a healthy person:

  1. For babies, the expected neutrophil count is 1500.
  2. For adults, the normal neutrophil count is between 2000 and 7500.

If the amount of neutrophils in the blood is lower than the levels mentioned above, we can be positive that the patient suffers from a condition called neutropenia.

This type of leucopenia is related to a low neutrophil count in the blood. In this case, it’s important to look for the cause of the condition, and see a doctor who can determine the appropriate treatment.

What can cause low neutrophils in babies?

There are a number of causes for a low neutrophil count in the blood, which tend to generate a low production of these cells. They can also prompt their destruction after they’ve been produced.

Low neutrophils in babies, also known as neutropenia, is a serious condition that must be immediately tended to. The baby will be exposed to certain viruses, bacteria or disease.

In both cases, the causes can be linked to certain medical conditions or habits that we’ll point out below:

Viral and bacterial infections

Some diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis or malaria can be the cause for a low neutrophil count. However, on many occasions the baby might simply have a serious infection that causes the neutrophils to run low quickly.

Drug use

Some drugs can damage the bone marrow or, indirectly, the neutrophils. Radiation therapy against cancer can cause neutropenia as well.

Vitamin deficit

A B12 vitamin deficit may provoke a condition known as megaloblastic anemia, creating a consistently low neutrophil count in the blood.

Bone marrow conditions

Aplastic anemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, leukemia and myelofibrosis can significantly reduce the production of neutrophils.

Congenital disorders

Certain disorders may produce a low neutrophil count in babies, which is why it’s necessary to review the medical history of close relatives.

Problems with the placenta

The soon-to-be mother can produce antibodies which attack the baby’s neutrophils, which go through the placenta before childbirth. This can provoke a decrease in the white cell count in the newborn baby.

Additionally, quite often this decrease happens without any clear cause, meaning the baby isn’t ill or doesn’t have an infection.


There is no reason to panic given that it’s usual for babies to present this condition while otherwise perfectly healthy. However, this is true only during the first year, as this is a transition state.


When not serious, neutropenia can disappear on its own. The bone marrow goes back to normal and the organism starts producing enough white cells.

Low Neutrophils in Babies

On the other hand, if there is an infection, the baby’s pediatrician could prescribe antibiotics. Once the infection subsides, production can get back to normal completely.

When the neutrophil count is very low it can even become life-threatening. If so, the following treatments can be prescribed:

  1. Drugs that can boost white cell production.
  2. Blood antibodies, through treatments intended for this purpose.

What parents must know

This kind of condition can be properly managed when the child doesn’t have a bacterial infection. In this case we can simply resort to antibiotics, always prescribed by the doctor.

When the child doesn’t frequently have a fever – and if he or she has been taken to the doctor and it has been considered a temporary issue – then there is no need to worry. The bone marrow will recover shortly and go back to normal values, which means the low neutrophil count in the baby will disappear.

Pediatric hematology control

In case of no apparent cause for the low neutrophils, parents must continue monitoring pediatric hematology. Doctors will follow a diagnostics protocol and set controls. Consequently, it’s advisable not to miss any scheduled visits or examinations with the doctor.

If we comply with each and every one of these protocols, the baby will remain healthy until he or she is completely cured. This will help lead to adequate neutrophil production and prevent further complications.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Spoor J, Farajifard H, Rezaei N. Congenital neutropenia and primary immunodeficiency diseases. Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2019 Jan;133:149-162.
  • Dale DC. How I manage children with neutropenia. Br J Haematol. 2017 Aug;178(3):351-363.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.