In the human body, white blood cells play a role in combating various infections from fungi, viruses, bacteria, and other causes of disease. The low number of white blood cells makes the body vulnerable to infection. Conversely, high levels of white blood cells can be a sign that the body is fighting the disease.
White blood cell levels are generally only checked when someone experiences a complaint that is suspected to be a sign of infection. Therefore, it is important to recognize the symptoms, causes, and consequences that can arise due to an abnormal white blood cell count.
When the Body Has a Deficiency in White Blood Cells
White blood cell levels in the human body can indeed vary from one another. However, there is a minimum limit on the number of white blood cells that need to be present in a healthy human body, which is 4,000 per microliter of blood. Meanwhile, the minimum limit in children varies by sex and age. Low white blood cells or leukocytes in the blood are called leukopenia.
What causes low levels of white blood cells? Below are some of the conditions behind the lack of white blood cells:
- Viral infections, congenital abnormalities, cancer, or diseases that affect bone marrow function.
- Medications that affect the bone marrow or cause damage to white blood cells.
- Severe infections that cause the depletion of white blood cells are faster than the speed of production.
- Lack of intake of vitamin B12 or folic acid can affect the production of white blood cells.
Some special conditions that can cause low white blood cell counts, namely HIV / AIDS, chemotherapy, myelodisplasia syndrome, lupus, aplastic anemia, or blood cancer (leukemia). In addition, the number of white blood cells can also be influenced by certain drugs such as antibiotics and diuretic drugs, spleen dysfunction, Kostmann’s syndrome, diseases by parasites, radiation therapy, immune system disorders, and vitamin deficiencies.
It is important to make efforts to prevent infection if a person’s white blood cells are low. Here are ways you can do to prevent infection:
- Implement a healthy diet.
- Wash hands before and after meals with warm water and soap.
- Be careful when touching pets or other animals that might be infected.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Wear a protective mask.
When White Blood Cells Are Too High
The condition of high white blood cell levels is called leukocytosis. Although the maximum normal levels vary, but generally these normal levels are no more than 11,000 leukocytes in each microliter of blood in adults.
High levels of white blood cells can be caused by the following things:
- Abnormal production of white blood cells due to diseases of the bone marrow.
- Immune system disorders.
- Reactions to certain drugs.
Some special conditions that cause white blood cell levels to become high include treatment such as epinephrine, suffering from bacterial or viral infections, severe allergic reactions, blood cancer (leukemia), polycythemia vera, tuberculosis, disorders of the thymus gland, rheumatoid arthritis, whooping cough smoking and stress.
The number of white blood cells can only be known through a blood test. To avoid the bad conditions due to abnormal white blood cell levels, consult a doctor immediately if you experience suspicious symptoms, such as high fever for more than 3 days, chills, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea that does not go away.