Welcome to the OutUK series looking at gay men and their health brought to you in association with the NHS website.
Each week we'll tackle a different topic in our A to Z of Gay Health. We'll have features and advice on everything from relationships, sexual health, mental and physical conditions and how to stay fit. You can follow any of links provided below for more information direct from the NHS website, or view any of our Previous A to Z Features.
You should also know that OutUK has produced a special report about: Coronavirus Covid-19.

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This Week - W : White Cell Count

A low white blood cell count usually means your body is not making enough white blood cells. It can increase your risk of getting infections.

How you get a low white blood cell count

Common causes of a low white blood cell count include:

Agranulocytosis and neutropenia are conditions that cause a low white blood cell count.

Check if you have a low white blood cell count

A low white blood cell count does not always cause any symptoms.

The main symptom is getting frequent infections. Signs of an infection may include:

  • a high temperature
  • chills and shivering
  • sore throat
  • mouth sores that keep coming back
  • toothache
  • skin rashes
  • tiredness
  • flu-like symptoms

A blood test can tell you if your white blood cell count is low.

Treatment for a low white blood cell count

Treatment for a low white blood cell count depends on what's causing it. Treatment often includes antibiotics.

If it's caused by a medicine or other treatment you're having, you may need to stop the treatment or change your dose.

You may also need specific treatment:

  • to boost your white blood cells
  • if you've got an infection

Occasionally, infections can lead to a life-threatening condition called sepsis.

See a GP if:

  • you know you're at risk of a low white blood cell count and you get an infection
  • you keep getting infections

Things you can do to avoid infections

If you have a low white blood cell count caused by illness, cancer treatment or medicine, it's important to take steps to avoid infections.


  • avoid close contact with people who are sick

  • store and prepare food properly to avoid food poisoning

  • wash your hands with soap and warm water regularly

  • use an electric shaver instead of a razor

  • avoid shared hot tubs


  • do not share food, cups, utensils, toothbrushes or make-up

  • do not eat raw foods like meat, shellfish and eggs

  • do not change cat litter or handle animal poo

  • do not change nappies

  • do not walk outside barefoot

  • do not swim in ponds, lakes and rivers

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We'll have more information and advice next week on another topic in our A to Z of Gay Health. We have covered many subjects in this series and you can catch up with all of our Previous A to Z Features.

If you want to find out more about this week's subject you can visit the Original article on the NHS website. If you are worried by any aspect of your health make sure you go and see your doctor or book an appointment at your local clinic.

Photos: LightFieldStudios and one of VladOrlov, Stockcube, darak77, ajr_images or rawpixel.com.


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