Immune System Disorders in Kids

The immune system is the body’s defense against bacteria, viruses, pollen, and other invaders that can cause infections. When your child’s body comes into contact with potentially dangerous invaders, their immune system’s special cells, tissues, and organs work together to fight against them and protect them from infection and serious illnesses. 

However, there are times when the immune system doesn’t work the way it should, causing it to react ineffectively to infections or overreact and attack healthy cells. In this blog, we will explore immune system disorders and autoimmune diseases that kids can suffer from. 

What Are Immune System Disorders?  

Immune system disorders occur when your child’s immune system doesn’t work correctly. Some of the main immune system disorders include:  

  • Primary immune disorders – Children are born missing parts of the immune system or with an immune system that doesn’t work correctly, putting them at risk of germs. If you notice that your child has recurring infections, delayed growth, or digestive problems, then an immune system disorder may be the reason.  
  • Temporary acquired immune deficiencies – Certain infections (flu, measles, mono) or treatment (chemo for cancer) can temporarily weaken your child’s immune system, making them more susceptible to infections.  
  • Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) – This serious but rare inherited condition sees children born with a range of primary immune disorders, putting them at a high risk of infection from bacteria, viruses, and fungi. 
  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) – This is a severe condition that is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The virus destroys white blood cells, one of the most important defense mechanisms of the body, making it hard for the body to protect itself from infections.

Immune System Disorder Treatment in Littleton

What Happens if the Immune System Is Overactive?

Sometimes, your child’s immune system may overreact to normally harmless substances in the environment. This often leads to allergies to things such as certain foods, dust, mold, pet dander, and pollen.  

In some cases, the immune system may overreact in a way that causes issues such as: 

  • Asthma: This affects your child’s lungs and can be triggered by allergies, smoke, pollution, or even exercise. Asthma leads to breathing problems such as breathlessness, wheezing, and coughing and often requires treatment to minimize the impact of the symptoms. 
  • Eczema: A common condition in kids that leads to their skin becoming itchy, dry, cracked, and sore. Some kids may have triggers, such as certain foods and allergies, but the cause of eczema is unclear. 

Autoimmune Disorders

The immune system can sometimes attack healthy cells, leading to autoimmune diseases. There is often no known cause for why it happens, but research suggests it is down to a combination of genes and the environment the child is in. These conditions are often chronic but can be managed successfully with treatment. 

The most common types of autoimmune disorders in kids include:

  • Type 1 diabetes: rare in young children but happens when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: a painful condition that causes frequent joint pain, swelling, inflammation, and stiffness
  • Lupus: a condition that leads to severe joint pain, fever, and disc-shaped rashes

Treating Immune System Disorders 

The treatment will depend on the severity of the condition and your child’s range of symptoms. The aim is always to help strengthen the immune system to fight off infections. When a specific allergen causes the disorders, there will be a particular treatment regimen. For example, with celiac disease, your child will need to have a diet that doesn’t include wheat or gluten.  

If you are worried about your child’s health or need support managing their immune system disorder, book an appointment today to speak with one of our friendly pediatricians in Littleton.