ZocdocAnswersWhat is a normal white blood count?

Question

What is a normal white blood count?

My son age 30 was admitted after coming to the E.R. The doctors diagnosed him with dehydration and kidney failure. He has bee in for going on 3 days and one the results from his blood work was a count of 14000 for his white blood cells. He has had an Echo. (Heart) and that proved normal. The doctors are talking about checking his brain for I believe an infection. Could they be looking for meningitis (can't spell)? What is a normal white blood count? Also he works at a Nursing Home. He is an LPN with a degree in psychology.

Answer

It sounds like your son is really sick and I recommend that you schedule an appointment with his primary care physician. I will first start by answering original question. A normal white blood cell count can range from 4,000 to 11,000. Thus, a white blood cell count of 14,000 is elevated. An elevated white blood cell count can mean many things but certainly one of them is infection. I have seen white blood cell counts elevate in response to severe dehydration and other illnesses that are not related to infection. Thus, an elevated white blood cell count never indicates infection for sure. It is just a possible sign of infection. Regarding the question of meningitis, if your doctors believe that your son may have meningitis and they will have to perform a spinal tap to obtain a sample of cerebral spinal fluid. In this case, it is not the blood counts that matter, but rather the white blood cell count in the spinal fluid along with the cultures can provide you and your doctors with the information needed to diagnose or rule out meningitis. Regarding the dehydration and kidney failure, these may or may not be related to infection but certainly he would benefit from some IV fluids. For general questions regarding infections, I would suggest that he schedule an appointment with his primary care physician.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.