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How can you stay health if you have an immunodeficiency?

Dec 21, 2023
Immunodeficiencies are a group of disease states that prevent us from fighting off invading microorganisms.
This brief primer discusses immunodeficiency and ways to stay healthy.

First, what is immunodeficiency?

Immunodeficiency refers to a group of conditions in which the patient cannot defend themselves normally against infection.  There are approximately 100 one-gene mutations that cause immunodeficiency.  However, there are more that involve more than one gene.  Many of these are harder to detect.

How is immunodeficiency diagnosed?

Immunodeficiency is diagnosed with a thorough history, one that demonstrates a pattern of excess infections, and exam.

Testing involves a series of labs to prove that the parts of the Immune System, that part of the body that protects against infection, are missing or defective.

How do you stay healthy if you have immunodeficiency?

Staying healthy

  • Get a flu shot every year.
  • Get a pneumococcal vaccine shot. If you have had one before, ask your doctor whether you need another dose. Two different types of pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for people ages 65 and older.
  • If you must be around people with colds or the flu, wash your hands often.
  • Do not smoke. This is the most important step you can take to prevent more damage to your lungs. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke, air pollution, and high altitudes. Also avoid cold, dry air and hot, humid air. Stay at home with your windows closed when air pollution is bad.
  • Exercise and eat well
  • If your doctor recommends it, get more exercise. Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. Try for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Eat regular, well-balanced meals. Eating right keeps your energy levels up and helps your body fight infection.
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Many infectious diseases, such as colds, will resolve on their own. Drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest.

Infectious agents can enter your body through:

  • Skin contact or injuries
  • Inhalation of airborne germs
  • Ingestion of contaminated food or water
  • Tick or mosquito bites
  • Sexual contact

Follow these tips to decrease your risk of infecting yourself or others:

  • Wash your hands. This is especially important before and after preparing food, before eating, and after using the toilet. And try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands, as that's a common way germs enter the body.
  • Get vaccinated. Immunization can drastically reduce your chances of contracting many diseases. Make sure to keep up to date on your recommended vaccinations, as well as your children's.
  • Stay home when ill. Don't go to work if you are vomiting, have diarrhea or have a fever. Don't send your child to school if he or she has these signs and symptoms, either.
  • Prepare food safely. Keep counters and other kitchen surfaces clean when preparing meals. Cook foods to the proper temperature using a food thermometer to check for doneness. For ground meats, that means at least 160 F (71 C); for poultry, 165 F (74 C); and for most other meat, at least 145 F (63 C).In addition, promptly refrigerate leftovers — don't let cooked foods remain at room temperature for extended periods of time.
  • Practice safe sex. Always use condoms if you or your partner has a history of sexually transmitted infections or high-risk behavior.
  • Don't share personal items. Use your own toothbrush, comb and razor. Avoid sharing drinking glasses or dining utensils.
  • Travel wisely. If you're traveling out of the country, talk to your doctor about any special vaccinations — such as yellow fever, cholera, hepatitis A or B, or typhoid fever — you may need.
  • Wash your hands frequently - especially before preparing food, before eating, and after using the restroom. Insist that your health-care providers wash their hands and use gloves, especially before any invasive treatment or procedure.
  • Don't insist that your physician give you antibiotics if you don't need them. Antibiotics have no effect on illnesses caused by viruses.
  • Take prescribed antibiotics exactly as instructed; do not stop taking them without checking with your physician, even if the medicine makes you feel better - or worse.
  • Keep your immunizations - and those of your children - up to date.
  • Don't send your child to a day-care enter or to school with symptoms of an infection - such as vomiting, diarrhea and/or fever.
  • Follow safe sexual practices.
  • Do not use IV drugs; if you do, do not share needles.
  • Don't share personal items - such as razor blades, toothbrushes, combs, and hairbrushes - and don't eat or drink from others' plates, glasses, or silverware.
  • Keep kitchen surfaces clean, especially when preparing meat, chicken, and fish; disinfect kitchen surfaces.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, especially when the will be left out for a long time.

The best public sources for up-to-date travel information are the:

Use the CDC guide for advice on consumption of local food and water.  If in doubt, bottled water is safest.

In airplane, bring your own pillow, headset, etc.  Use a tissue to touch airplane restroom doorknobs.  Keep mucus membranes moist, especially the day before and the day of travel.  Bring hand sanitizer.  Consider bringing a face mask.

Ask your doctor which vaccines it is safe for you to receive:  in most cases of immunodeficiency, it is not recommended that the patient receives live attenuated vaccines.  These include BCG for Tuberculosis, OPV for polio, the measles component of the MMR, the Rotavirus vaccine, and the Yellow Fever Vaccine.

Once patients are taking immunoglobulin for immunodeficiency, it is generally not necessary to use vaccinations as there is some immunity provided.  There are exceptions, so ask your Immunologist.

If you would like to be tested for immunodeficiency, asthma, allergies or believe you might be a good candidate for treatment of immunodeficiency, asthma, allergy shots, Dr. Wendt and the staff at Relieve Allergy, Asthma & Hives would love to help.

Relieve Allergy Asthma & Hives is located near Kierland Commons, Scottsdale Quarter, DC Ranch and Grayhawk at 21803 N. Scottsdale Road Ste. 200, on the corners of Deer Valley and Scottsdale Roads, and has convenient evening and early morning hours to accommodate your schedule.

Dr. Wendt is also available for telemedicine appointments as appropriate. Insurance plans accepted. Call 480-500-1902 today to schedule an appointment now and begin your allergy testing and treatment with Dr. Wendt at Relieve Allergy, Asthma & Hives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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