Dear Bundoo: My daughter is always sick. Does she have an autoimmune disorder?
This week, one mom is worried her daughter’s constant sickness is part of a larger immune issue. Is it cause for concern? See what our expert says.
My daughter (she’s 4) recently came down with a nasty cold that went around her preschool. I don’t know what it is about her, but she seems to run very high fevers. It’s not unusual that she’ll have a fever of 103 degrees even for a normal cold. She also has pretty bad allergies to pollen and other things. I’m worried that she might have some type of autoimmune issue that causes her body to overreact. Am I crazy to worry about this? Is there some kind of test you can use to see if my daughter’s immune system is normal or if she really does have an over-stimulated immune system?
Preschool colds and fevers can really make a parent worry. The average preschooler has 10 (!) upper respiratory infections (aka colds) each year. With each one lasting a week or more, it’s common to feel like your child is always sick. Combine that with a child who tends to run fevers with each cold, and it’s no wonder you worry that something more is wrong.
Immunodeficiency is when a person’s immune system is not functioning well. There are many different types of immunodeficiencies, but what I think you are referring to is the inability to fight off common colds and to get them more often and worse than the average person. Signs of immunodeficiency include: poor growth, frequent pneumonias, sinus or ear infections, or infections that require multiple courses of antibiotics to treat. Recurrent or unusual skin infections and infections that result in a hospital stay for IV antibiotics can also be signs of immunodeficiency.
There are tests to determine if your child has an immunodeficiency. Some tests, such as antibody levels and immunoglobulin levels, are blood tests that are easily obtained by drawing blood for analysis. Testing for allergies is also possible through blood tests or skin prick testing. In both cases, consultation with an allergist/immunologist can be helpful. Talk with your pediatrician about the frequency of colds as well as the allergies. It is quite possible that your child falls within the normal range in terms of severity of illnesses and frequency of illnesses. If you or your doctor is concerned that these colds, fevers, or allergies are a sign of a bigger problem, consider testing or a visit to the immunologist.
—Answered by Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP, Bundoo Pediatrician
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