The Dangers of Delaying a Trip To the Immunologist

Your immune system protects you from infection and serves as the body’s defense. Here’s what you need to know when it’s time to see an immunologist.

By Dr. Brian Greenberg

8 minute read

Last Updated April 12, 2021

The Dangers of Delaying a Trip To the Immunologist

Immunology is the study of the immune system, and an immunologist treats health issues related to immune function. An immunologist, who will also have extensive training in allergies, can help you with treatment for an overactive or underactive immune system, aberrant immune system activity, and allergies. 

Your immune system protects you from infection and serves as the body’s defense, so when not functioning properly, the risk of illness increases. It is important to understand when the immune system is involved and when an immunologist should be your next visit. 

Signs You Need To See an Immunologist

Immune conditions can range from very common to very rare, spanning all ages and encompassing various organ systems. Proper immune function is essential for overall health, so it is important to pay attention to symptoms. Certain conditions can cause chronic health issues if left untreated. The sooner the issue is identified, the better the chances are of successful treatment. 

Possible symptoms of poor immune function can include:

♦ More cold and infections than usual
Slow-healing wounds
♦ Reduced white blood cell or platelet count
♦ Certain skin rashes
♦ Reduced function in organs
Digestive system problems

It is important to note that these symptoms may be associated with other health conditions, in which case, a trip to an immunologist is not always required. Bring any concerning symptoms to your primary care doctor’s attention so they can conduct an exam and evaluation. Should they feel that your condition is related to immune function, you do not want to delay visiting the immunologist. 

Don’t Delay Your Trip to the Immunologist

Should your primary care doctor refer you to an immunologist, it is important to see them right away. An overactive, underactive, or poorly functioning immune system puts your overall health and well-being at risk. Some symptoms can help you identify issues with immune function. However, these symptoms can also be indicative of other health conditions. 

Frequent colds

A cold is a respiratory illness caused by a virus, and it is common for healthy adults to catch a cold a few times each year. Some people develop colds or other infections more frequently, which can indicate an underlying condition or weakened immune system. 

Lack of sleep, stress, poor diet, or bad hygiene can interfere with proper immune system function, thus increasing your risk of catching a cold. The most common symptoms of a cold include:

♦ Nasal congestion
♦ Sinus pressure
♦ Runny or stuffy nose
♦ Sneezing
♦ Postnasal drip
♦ Sore throat
♦ Headaches
♦ Cough

Most colds can be treated with over-the-counter medications, but if not, or if colds become recurrent, you will need to speak with your doctor. 

Don’t wait: When colds become more frequent, your immune system function could be compromised. If an underlying immune-mediated condition is a cause, not seeking treatment can result in aberrant immune responses that target healthy tissues and organs in the body. 

Additionally, colds wear down the body’s natural defenses, and if recurrent, this leaves you more at risk for other infections. Symptoms to watch for in addition to colds becoming more frequent or more difficult to treat include:

♦ Symptoms that last for more than 10 days or get worse instead of better
♦ Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
♦ Pain or pressure in the chest
♦ Fainting or feeling like you are about to faint
♦ Confusion or disorientation
♦ Severe or persistent vomiting
♦ Severe pain in your face or forehead
♦ Hoarseness, sore throat, or a cough that won't go away after 10 days

To promote optimal immune function and reduce the risk of chronic health conditions, be sure to let your doctor know if you are experiencing more frequent colds or infections. 

Sore muscles

With muscles all over your body, muscle pain is one of the most common pains people feel. Your muscles can feel sore after overuse or strenuous activity but can typically be relieved with rest and other home remedies. Sometimes sore muscles can be the result of an underlying condition that may require treatment. 

When the cause of your sore muscles is apparent, then there is no cause for concern. If there is no obvious reason for your sore muscles, you could have an underlying medical condition that needs treatment. Signs to watch for include:

♦ Sore muscles that do not go away after a few days of home treatment
♦ Sore muscles accompanied by a rash
♦ Sore muscles accompanied by swelling 
♦ Sore muscles that occur with an elevated temperature
♦ Severe muscle pain that arises with no apparent cause

Don’t wait: If any of the following conditions accompany your sore muscles, you should seek medical attention immediately.

♦ Sudden onset of water retention
♦ Vomiting
♦ Stiffness in your neck
♦ Trouble catching your breath
♦ Difficulty swallowing
♦ Inability to move the affected area

A condition causing aberrant immune responses may be damaging muscle tissues, causing your pain. You do not want to ignore these conditions. Treatment to help control the immune-mediated reaction is important to prevent widespread attacks on tissues in the body. Left untreated, these conditions can cause chronic pain and serious health complications. 

Fatigue

Fatigue, or the general feeling of tiredness, is not the same as being sleepy. Sleepiness is a symptom of fatigue, along with a lack of motivation and little energy. Fatigue can be associated with a common cold, poor sleep, or lack of exercise. 

When fatigue does not resolve with rest and nutrition and is beginning to interfere with your daily life, you should speak with your doctor. When possible lifestyle causes are addressed, and there is no resolution, an underlying condition could be at the root of your fatigue. 

Reach out to your doctor if you experience fatigue and any of these situations:

♦ Having a higher than normal body temperature
♦ Unexplained weight loss
♦ Feeling sensitive to cold temperatures
♦ Regularly having trouble sleeping

Don’t wait: Fatigue is a common symptom of several physical and mental health conditions and left untreated, an underlying health condition could result in chronic health issues. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of these symptoms, along with fatigue:

♦ Severe headache
♦ Shortness of breath
♦ Vomiting blood
♦ Pain in the chest
♦ Faintness, dizziness, or light-headedness
♦ Irregular heartbeat
♦ Severe pain in the abdomen, back, or pelvis

Skin rashes

Like any other part of the body, the skin can be involved in an immune response, which manifests as a skin rash. Allergies, reactions to medications or materials, and certain health conditions can cause skin rashes. Rashes can be localized or widespread, causing itchiness and discomfort. 

Most rashes are harmless and can be treated with medications and home remedies to relieve irritation. In some cases, a rash may require medical attention if an underlying condition or an aberrant immune response is the cause. If a rash does not go away or becomes recurrent, you should speak with your doctor. 

Don’t wait: If your rash ever occurs with any of the following symptoms, you need to see your doctor right away.

♦ Red streaks near the rash
♦ Sore throat
♦ Pain in the joints
♦ A large collection of pus
♦ Tender regions near the rash

Additionally, if you ever experience a rash with a high fever, confusion, dizziness, or difficulty breathing, you should seek immediate care. Skin rashes can be treated effectively once the cause is identified, but since rashes are sometimes related to immune system response, ignoring them could leave you exposed to aberrant immune system attacks on healthy tissues in the body. 

Testing Done by an Immunologist

Your primary doctor will start with a physical examination and discussion of your symptoms. Your medical and family history will also be discussed. Depending on the physical exam, you may be referred to an immunologist, where specific tests can be done to better identify the cause of your symptoms. 

Blood tests are performed to determine if you have normal levels of blood cells, immune cells, and immunoglobulins. These tests can also determine if your immune system responds appropriately and produces antibodies in the presence of foreign microbes. 

Tests to determine white blood cell and antibody levels are the most important. A count that is higher or lower than normal can be indicative of poor immune system function, and additional testing may be required to identify specifically how the immune system is being affected so proper treatment can be advised. 

Medical Treatment Options 

Most treatments are designed to alleviate discomfort and will depend on the symptoms.

♦ Allergic responses can be addressed with low dose steroids
♦ Infections can be treated with antibiotics
♦ Sinus congestion can be relieved with decongestants
♦ Sneezing and runny nose can be alleviated with antihistamines

Depending on the underlying cause, additional treatment options to help boost immune function are available, including immunoglobulin therapy to support antibody production and interferon-gamma therapy, which helps to reduce the severity and frequency of recurrent infections. 

Natural Treatment Options

1MD’s doctor-formulated ImmunityMD® and ImmunityMD® Plus Respiratory Health contain ingredients based on their targeted effectiveness for immune system health. 

ImmunityMD® is a probiotics-based supplement designed to support immune function, consisting of a blend of probiotics and prebiotic fiber that promotes proper nutrient absorption and ultimately supports immune health. In addition to these natural ingredients, ImmunityMD® also contains L-lysine, an amino acid that helps support the function of specific antibodies, and zinc, an essential element that helps support healthy immune response and stimulate T cell activity. 

ImmunityMD® Plus Respiratory Health is a revolutionary solution to support immune and respiratory health, using a combination of naturally-derived ingredients, including Pelargonium sidoides, a traditional herb, along with 8 essential botanicals, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. 

♦ Pelargonium sidoides: This herbal extract has been found to support respiratory function and provides support for the body’s natural healing rate. This extract is also effective at supporting the immune system response to protect against foreign microbes. 

♦ N-acetyl cysteine: NAC possesses the ability to stimulate the production of glutathione, an enzyme that can support respiratory tract healing and function. 

♦ Vitamin E: This essential vitamin helps stimulate the production of T cells in the thymus gland to support a healthy immune response.

♦ Vitamin C: Vitamin C amplifies the effects of vitamin E by helping recycle spent vitamin E and supports the body’s first line of defense by strengthening epithelial cells that serve as a barrier to keeping microbes from entering the body. 

♦ Vitamin D3: In the form of cholecalciferol, this nutrient supports overall immune function by stimulating immune cell activity. 

♦ Chromium: This essential micronutrient supports the production and activity of key white blood cells responsible for attacking foreign microbes.

♦ Marshmallow root: This herb helps expedite the removal of dead cells to better support respiratory system function and healing. 

Final Thoughts

The immune system is your body’s defense and is responsible for keeping pathogens out or removing them should they get in. Some immune-related symptoms can be associated with a serious underlying condition that you don’t want to ignore. Maintaining healthy immune function involves regular testing, prompt diagnosis, and 1MD’s naturally-derived immune system health supplements to support immune system function and enhance quality of life.

Dr. Brian Greenberg

Dr. Brian Greenberg is an immunologist, allergist, and pediatrician who received his medical degree from the University of Florida, and completed his residency and fellowship at UCLA. He has practiced medicine in Southern California for almost 25 years.