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What is a normal full blood count?

A full blood count is a test that measures the number of red cells, white cells and platelets in your blood.

Red cells carry oxygen around our bodies. Haemoglobin is the part of the red cell that carries the oxygen.  If you have a low red cell count, your doctor may say you are anaemic (pronounced a-nee-mic).

White cells fight infections. There are several different types of white cells, including neutrophils and lymphocytes. You may hear your doctor talk about your neutrophil count when you are recovering from chemotherapy.

Platelets help clot the blood. If you have low platelets, you may have abnormal bleeding, such as bleeding gums and nosebleeds.

Your doctor does a full blood count to

  • Check your general health
  • Diagnose certain conditions such as infections or anaemia or as an early test for blood cancers such as leukaemia and lymphomas
  • Check for treatment side effects, such as your white cell count when you are having chemotherapy

There isn’t an exact range of normal for blood counts. The range of figures quoted as normal varies slightly and also differs between men and women.

  Adult woman Adult man
Red blood cells 3.8 to 5 x 10 12/l (3.8 to 5 million per cubic millimeter of blood) 4.5 to 6.5 x 10 12/l (4.5 to 6.5 million per cubic millimeter of blood)
Haemoglobin (Hb)

11.5 to 16.5 grams per 100ml of blood 

(115 to 165 grams per litre of blood)

13 to 18 grams per 100ml of blood

(130 to 180 grams per litre of blood)

White blood cells 4 to 11 x 10 9/l (4,000 to 11,000 per cubic millimeter of blood) As for women
Neutrophils 2.0 to 7.5 x 10 9/l (2,000 to 7,500 per cubic millimeter of blood) As for women
Lymphocytes 1.3 to 4.0 x 10 9/l (1,300 to 4,000 per cubic millimeter of blood) As for women
Platelets (thrombocytes) 150 to 440 x 10 9/l (150,000 to 440,000 per cubic millimeter of blood) As for women

Our figures are from the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine and Anatomy and Physiology in Health and Illness (Ross and Wilson).

You can find out more about the different blood cells in our section on cancers in general.

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Updated: 10 April 2013