Five (5) Critical Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Infections That Won’t Go Away – ‘Primary Immune Deficiency Disease’

Joseph R. Anticaglia MD
Medical Advisory Board

The immune system protects the body against infections, chemical agents or other harmful substances. Primary immune deficiency diseases (PI or PIDD) are caused by genetic flaws – defects in the immune system passed down from one or both parents.

In these instances, the body doesn’t produce enough antibodies or at other times, the antibodies manufactured are defective. In both cases, the immune system suffers and so does the patient.

Why Does My Child Get So Many Infections?

Albert is a 4 year old boy who has a history of numerous upper respiratory infections since he was 11 months old. He was finally diagnosed as having immune deficiency disease. His mother talks about their frustrating story.

“Albert’s always on antibiotics. It started when he was 11 months old. Ear infections, throat infections, runny nose, coughing. You name, he’s had it. He gets lots of ear infections every year and once he gets off the antibiotics, the infections come back. They’ve taken many throat cultures but all come back negative for a strep infection.

“What really worried me was the time he had trouble breathing. I took him to the emergency room and they had to put him in the hospital. He needed intravenous antibiotics to get rid of the lung infection. The infection got into his blood. It seems he feels well for 3 or 4 weeks then he’s back on the antibiotics.

“My doctor tells me not to worry because he’s not growing as fast as other kids. How can you not worry?” Other kids don’t get as sick as my son does.”

The Immune Deficiency Foundation (IDF) offers guidelines to help solve the puzzle of immunodeficiency. It hopes to spur people in the direction of getting useful answers from the doctor and appropriate tests to diagnose this difficult disease.

Guidelines: “SPURR”

Be suspicious if the infection is …

  • Severe Is the infection severe enough to require hospitalization or intravenous medications?
  • Persistent Does the infection take weeks to clear up or doesn’t seem to clear up completely?
  • Unusual Is the infection caused by an uncommon organism? Does a common organism cause a serious infection?
  • Recurrent Does the infection keep coming back?
  • Runs in the family? Have others in your family have had a similar history to infection?

If the above sounds familiar, speak to your physician about primary immune deficiency disease. It’s pivotal to get an early diagnosis and to start treatment.


Immune Deficiency Foundation; Primary immunodeficiency Diseases in America, 2007

Megan A Cooper, PhD et al; Primary Immunodeficiencies; Am Fam Phys, Nov.15, 2003

Carin E Reust, MD, MSPH; Evaluation of primary Immunodeficiency Disease in Children; Am Fam Phys, June 1, 2013

A. Subbarayan et al; Clinical Features That Identify Children With Primary Immunodeficiency Disease; Pediatrics, May 2011

Jeffrey Modell Foundation, Primary Immunodeficiency Disease

This article is intended solely as a learning experience. Please consult your physician for diagnostic and treatment options.