Information for You
Neutrophils are a specific type of white blood cell, which help our bodies to fight infection. A
normal neutrophil count is 1,700 - 7,500 cells/mm3. When this cell count is low, it is called
neutropenia. If the neutrophils are less than 500 cells/mm3 there is a greater risk for infection.
Chemotherapy, radiation, or your disease can cause neutropenia. You need to be aware of the
signs and symptoms of infection when you are neutropenic, or have a low neutrophil count.
Signs and Symptoms of Infection
Call your doctor right away if you have any of these signs or symptoms!
ξ Fever, temperature of 100.8 θ F or 38.2 θ C or low grade fevers of 100 º F for more
than 24 hours. (Take your temperature in the morning and in the evening if you are
ξ Shaking chills
ξ Chest congestion or cold symptoms
ξ Sore throat
ξ Sores in mouth
ξ Sinus pain
ξ Problems with urination, such as burning or urgency
ξ Loose bowel movements
ξ Inflamed hemorrhoids
ξ Changes in mental status
ξ Unusual vaginal discharge or irritation
ξ Pimples or boils on the skin (may appear without pus, because white blood cells are
needed to make pus)
ξ If you have a venous access device (e.g.. Hickman, PICC, Groshong, or Port) report
any swelling, redness, pain at catheter site or along tunnel area, or drainage from exit
What to Do
ξ Wash your hands often. Wash before making meals, eating, and after using the
bathroom. This is the best way to prevent infection.
ξ Do not share food, drinks, cups, utensils or other personal items, such as tooth
ξ Clean the mouth often with a soft toothbrush. If you wear dentures, clean twice a day.
ξ Keep your skin dry and clean, especially under your arms, groin, and rectal areas
ξ Do not eat foods that may contain bacteria. Avoid unwashed raw fruit or vegetables.
Avoid salad bars. See HFFY #476 Food Safety for the Immunocompromised Patient”
ξ Avoid people who are ill with colds, flu, and chicken pox
ξ Avoid large crowds, such as at shopping malls
ξ Do not smoke and avoid people who do smoke
ξ Do not put anything in your rectum before checking with your doctor
ξ Avoid cleaning birdcages, fish tanks, or cat litter boxes.
ξ At certain times you may need to wear a mask, (see below)
When to wear your mask
If you are in the hospital, you must wear your mask if you are out of your room if:
ξ You have neutropenia
ξ You are less than 100 days post-transplant.
You must also wear your mask if:
ξ You come to the clinic or any medical facility
ξ You are in a public place, (church, mall, sports event, etc.)
How to wear the mask
ξ The upper and lower edges of the mask are snug to your face
ξ The elastic bands are placed so that one is on the base of the skull and the other is
near the top of your head (see picture below)
ξ The nose -piece must be pinched down to snugly fit the bridge of your nose
ξ There should not be gaps between the mask and your face
Your nurse will help fit your mask and give you a supply to use. You can buy more masks from
your local drug store.
Masks may be reused. Store them in a clean dry place. Change your mask if:
ξ It is moist or will not keep its shape
ξ You wear it for more than a total of 8 hours
How Infections Are Treated
Oral or IV antibiotics may be given. Depending on the severity of the infection, you may need to
be admitted to the hospital for close monitoring and IV antibiotic treatment.
ξ Contact your doctor or nurse with questions on when to resume sexual activity
ξ Do not have more than one sex partner
ξ Do not have anal intercourse
ξ Do not use an intrauterine device for birth control
ξ Use a condom
Dr. may be reached from a.m. to p.m.
at or feel welcome to call .
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #6248.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 5/2017. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4577