How to Interpret a High WBC Count

A number of factors can contribute to a high white blood cell count.
A number of factors can contribute to a high white blood cell count. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

White blood cells work to fight off infections. When the body registers a high white blood cell count, or WBC, the condition, called leukocytosis, should be assessed by a doctor to determine the cause. A high white blood cell count could have a number of causes, including an infection, bone marrow disease, immune system problems or a reaction to a drug.

Visit a physician to have your blood drawn for a sample. This might be done at your general practitioner’s office, a hospital or a blood lab.

Order the test to be sent for evaluation. This would typically be done by the doctor to gather information for a diagnosis when a patient is not feeling well, or routinely during a physical or hospital visit.

Read the results for interpretation. A normal white blood cell count range is between 4,500 and 10,000 white blood cells per microliter (mcL), according to the National Library of Medicine.

Evaluate possible causes of a high count -- above 10,000 mcL -- in partnership with your doctor. Consider lifestyle factors that might be affecting your blood, or treatments or drugs that should be pursued. High white blood cell counts could indicate any of the following, according to the Mayo Clinic: leukemia, measles, myelofibrosis, infection, rheumatoid arthritis, smoking, stress or whooping cough.

Tips & Warnings

  • Doctors are trained to read results from blood tests. Work with your doctor, rather than relying on self-diagnosis, to ensure your tests and results are properly interpreted.
  • Ranges that are considered normal can vary among laboratories.

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