Is a High Red Blood Cell Count in Children a Cause for Concern?



A complete blood count (CBC) is a common blood test that provides valuable insights into a child’s overall health. Among the various components measured in a CBC, the red blood cell count (RBC) is a crucial parameter. While a low RBC count can indicate anemia, a high RBC count might raise questions for parents. In this article, we’ll explore whether a high red blood cell count in children is something to be worried about and what steps parents can take if they have concerns.

Understanding Red Blood Cells:

Red blood cells, or erythrocytes, play a vital role in the body by carrying oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and organs. They also transport carbon dioxide, a waste product, from the body’s tissues back to the lungs for exhalation. The RBC count measures the number of these cells in a given volume of blood.

What Constitutes a High RBC Count?

A high RBC count is generally defined as an elevation in the number of red blood cells beyond the normal range for a child’s age and sex. The normal range can vary slightly depending on the laboratory and reference values used but typically falls within these parameters.

Possible Causes of High RBC Count in Children:

  1. Dehydration: Mild dehydration can cause an increase in RBC count because the blood becomes more concentrated.
  2. Chronic Hypoxia: Conditions that result in chronic low oxygen levels in the body, such as congenital heart defects, sleep apnea, or lung diseases, can trigger the production of more red blood cells.
  3. Polycythemia: This is a condition characterized by an overproduction of red blood cells, which can be primary (a bone marrow disorder) or secondary (due to underlying health issues).
  4. High Altitude Living: Children living at high altitudes may naturally have a higher RBC count to compensate for lower oxygen levels.
  5. Genetic Factors: In some cases, a high RBC count may be attributed to genetic factors.

When to Be Concerned:

While a slightly elevated RBC count might not be a cause for alarm, persistent or significantly high levels may require medical attention. It’s essential for parents to consult a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and decide on the appropriate course of action.


A high red blood cell count in children can result from various factors, including dehydration, chronic hypoxia, or medical conditions like polycythemia. While a slightly elevated RBC count may not always be concerning, parents should never ignore persistent or significantly high levels. It’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional who can perform a thorough evaluation, diagnose any underlying issues, and recommend appropriate treatments or lifestyle adjustments to ensure the child’s well-being. Regular check-ups and open communication with healthcare providers are key to addressing any health concerns in children.

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