Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Neutropenic Fever

(Febrile Neutropenia)


A neutropenic fever is a temperature over 100.4°F (38°C) in a person with neutropenia. Neutropenia is when you have a low number of neutrophils in the blood. This is a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infections.

White Blood Cells
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Causes  ^

The fever is caused by an infection.

Too few neutrophils can have a number of causes. They range from viral infections to certain medicines. It is common in people who are being treated for cancer.

Risk Factors  ^

Having neutropenia raises the chance of infection.

It is more common in older adults.

Other things that may raise your risk are:

  • Uncontrolled cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Liver or kidney problems

Symptoms  ^

The main sign is a fever over 100.4°F (38°C). In some cases, it may be the only sign.

You may also have chills and sweating.

The infection may cause other problems. A urinary tract infection or lung infection will have their own signs.

Diagnosis  ^

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Your blood may be tested.

You may have more tests to find the cause of your infection.

Treatment  ^

You will be treated right away. If not, your life may be at risk.

You will be given antibiotics. Other medicines may be given to treat the type of infection you have.

Tests to find the cause of your infection can take a few days. Your medicine may be changed based on the results.

Prevention  ^

Some people with this health problem are at high risk for infection. Antibiotics may be prescribed to help stop them before they happen.

Other steps are:

  • Practicing good hand washing
  • Staying away from people who are sick
  • Getting flu and pneumonia vaccines on time

American Cancer Society

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Canadian Cancer Society

Public Health Agency of Canada


Book L. Neutropenic fever following chemotherapy in a patient with lymphoma. Oncol Nurs Forum. 2008;35(6):885-887.

Febrile neutropenia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated April 24, 2018. Accessed July 20, 2018.

Freifeld AG, Bow EJ, Sepkowitz KA, et al. Clinical practice guideline for the use of antimicrobial agents in neutropenic patients with cancer: 2010 Update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis. 2011;52(4):427-431.

Infections in people with cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed July 20, 2018.

Last reviewed June 2018 by James Cornell, MD  Last Updated: 7/20/18