Neutrophils help your immune system fight infections and heal injuries. Neutrophils are the most common type of white blood cell in your body. An absolute neutrophil count identifies whether your body has enough neutrophils or if your count is above or below a healthy range.
Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell (leukocytes) that act as your immune system’s first line of defense. There are three types of white blood cells: granulocytes, lymphocytes and monocytes. Neutrophils are a subset of granulocytes, along with eosinophils and basophils cells. Together, your white blood cells protect your body from infection and injury.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Think of your immune system as the general of your body’s army that works to prevent bacteria and viruses from entering. Once your white blood cells pass basic training in your bone marrow, your immune system sends their troops of mature cells (neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils) to travel through your circulation system and tissues to prepare for invaders that cause illness, infection and disease. In the event of an attack on your immune system, your neutrophils are the first to the scene. Neutrophils capture and destroy the invading bacteria or microorganisms by setting traps and ingesting them. Your body will react to the battle with redness and swelling (inflammation), while your neutrophils start the tissue repair process, healing injury or damage.
Neutrophils are clear in color. When your healthcare provider examines your cells under a microscope, a dye changes their color so they’re visible. Neutrophils have a spherical shape when at rest but change shape to fight infection.
Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell. White blood cells make up 1% of the cells in your body. Neutrophils are the most common type of white blood cell and make up anywhere from 50% to 80% of all white blood cells in your body.
Neutrophils grow in your bone’s soft tissue (bone marrow) and migrate through your circulation system in your blood and tissues.
The number of neutrophils in your body needs to remain in a specific range to keep your body functioning normally. If your neutrophil count is too high or too low, you could acquire a condition that’s the result of your neutrophils being out of range.
These conditions are:
Symptoms of a neutrophil condition include:
In many cases, it’s normal for your body to produce more neutrophils to help you heal, especially in the case of a bone fracture or severe burn. When the number of neutrophils doesn’t decrease to normal levels after repairing an injury, it can pose a health risk. The number of neutrophils in your body may increase due to:
Neutropenia is the result of your body destroying neutrophils before your bone marrow can create more. Causes of a low neutrophil count include:
An absolute neutrophil count identifies how many neutrophils are in a sample of your blood. The normal range of neutrophils in a healthy adult is between 2,500 and 7,000 neutrophils per microliter of blood. Any number above 7,000 or below 2,500 puts you at risk of a neutrophil condition.
Tests that check the health of your neutrophils include:
Common treatments for low and high neutrophil counts include:
If you have a low count of neutrophils, you can take steps to increase it by working with your healthcare provider to make an action plan. They might suggest:
Neutrophils increase naturally to fight infection, but if your count is above normal levels, your healthcare provider will detect and treat any infection or reaction to medication that might be the cause. Treatment for infection typically involves taking antibiotics.
Take steps to keep your neutrophil count in a healthy range by avoiding infection. This includes:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Neutrophils are your body’s first line of defense against infection or injury. Keep your army of cells healthy by maintaining good hygiene to prevent infections, treating any injury or infections that you might have and eating a well-balanced diet.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/21/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.