Immunology

Immunology

When your child’s immune system malfunctions, it can cause problems that include allergies, autoimmune diseases, primary immune deficiency disorders and acquired deficiency disorders. The pediatric allergy and immunology experts at Children’s Health℠ offer complete care for all types of immunologic disorders.

The UT Southwestern physicians practicing at Children’s Health are board certified in both allergy and immunology and have extensive training to provide specialized treatment and resolve even the most difficult to diagnose cases. Our multidisciplinary team are all dedicated to identifying and managing your child’s condition and improving quality of life. We are here to offer information, education and support so you can understand your child’s condition, adjust to the diagnosis and help your child cope and thrive.

Understanding Your Child's Immune System

The immune system is the body’s gatekeeper, designed to repel harmful organisms from invading and doing damage. It’s made up of cells, tissues, proteins and organs that work together to fight off microorganisms such as fungi, viruses, parasites and bacteria.

Two types of leukocytes—phagocytes and lymphocytes—are white blood cells that hunt and attack substances that cause disease. These cells are made or stored in many different places in the body in lymphoid organs and tissues, including the lymph nodes, the spleen, and bone marrow. Lymphatic and blood vessels carry leukocytes throughout the body to provide immunity—or guard against threats.

When the components of your child’s immune system work properly, they defend the body against invaders and keep them healthy. But when they go awry, a number of infections and illnesses can result.

Identifying the Cause of Immune System Malfunctions

The immune system may malfunction for a variety of reasons. It is our goal to identify the root cause of your child’s immune system malfunction and then offer treatment and solutions. Some of these causes include:

  • Acquired immune deficiency - This happens when your child gets a disease that weakens their immune system. HIV is an example of a viral infection that causes an acquired immune deficiency. Acquired deficiencies may also be temporary, caused by certain medications used to treat illnesses or by infections such as the flu or measles.
  • Autoimmune disorder - This happens when the immune system turns against your child’s body for no known reason and attacks healthy tissues. Some of the most common autoimmune disorders include juvenile diabetes, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Over-active immune system - This can result in allergic reactions such as rhinitis, eczema and asthma, which occur when the immune system takes aim unnecessarily against a harmless substance it perceives as a hazard.
  • Primary immune deficiency - This happens when a child is born with a weak immune system. An example is a disorder widely known as “bubble boy disease” or severe combined immunodeficiency. Children with this illness do not have key white blood cells that protect them from fungi, viruses and bacteria so they are very likely to contract viruses regularly.

Meet the Care Team