What Does It Mean When Your Neutrophils Are High?

Reviewed on 1/21/2021

Neutrophils are white blood cells (WBC).
Neutrophils are white blood cells (WBC).

Neutrophils are white blood cells (WBC). These cells fight infections in the body. A high neutrophil count may be due to many physiological conditions and diseases.

In most cases, high neutrophils count is commonly associated with an active bacterial infection in the body. In rare cases, the high neutrophil count may also result from blood cancer or leukemia.

The following are the common causes of neutrophilia or high neutrophil count:

What are neutrophils?

Neutrophils comprise most of the white blood cells. They make up about 56% of the total white blood cells. Neutrophils are the soldiers that fight infections. They recognize the foreign proteins over an infectious particle and cover up the particle. They may either eat the infectious particle or release chemicals that kill the particle.

On the lab sheet, polymorphonuclears or PMNs are mature neutrophils, and band forms are young white blood cells. Band forms are commonly seen in the blood of a child. Neutrophils, like all other blood cells, are formed from the stem cells in the bone marrow. They circulate in the bloodstream for 7 to 10 hours. They migrate into the tissues, where they have a life span of only a few days after which the spleen destroys them. Neutrophils have a short lifespan. New neutrophils are then produced continuously in the bone marrow. The number of neutrophils in the blood might differ with each individual because it is affected by various factors, such as age and environment. However, the following is considered to the normal range of neutrophil count.

In terms of cell count:

  • The normal range of absolute neutrophil count (ANC) count in adults: 1500-8000 cells/mm3.
  • The normal range of mature/segmented neutrophils: 2500-6000 cells/mm3.
  • The normal range of immature neutrophils: 0-500 cells/mm3.

In terms of the percentage of the WBC:

  • The normal range of ANC count in adults: 40-45%.
  • The normal range of mature/segmented neutrophils: 40-60%.
  • The normal range of immature neutrophils: 0-5%.


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What is neutropenia?

When the level of neutrophil is less than 1500 cells/mm3 of the blood volume, it is considered a low neutrophil level or neutropenia.

  • Mild neutropenia: It is the condition where the levels are between 1000-1500 cells/mm3.
  • Moderate neutropenia: The levels are between 500-100 cells/mm3.
  • Severe neutropenia: The levels are less than 500 cells/mm3.

Neutropenia is often observed in viral infections, but it can also be a sign of some other factors or illness. The causes may be:

Neutrophilia and neutropenia need a meticulous clinical examination followed by relevant investigations so that appropriate treatment can be instituted. Though it may not be an emergency condition, proper physician advice is always recommended.

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Nader ND. Neutrophilia. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/208576- overview

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