Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Warning Signs of Primary Immunodeficiency


Am Fam Physician. 2003 Nov 15;68(10):2011.

What is a primary immunodeficiency?

A primary immunodeficiency is a genetic problem with the immune system. The immune system protects the body against infection—and fights infection when it happens.

People who have a primary immunodeficiency disorder get infections easily. The infections tend to come back often and are hard to cure.

There are more than 80 different kinds of primary immunodeficiency disorders. Some are common. Others are rare.

What are some warning signs of a primary immunodeficiency?

As part of a national educational program, The Jeffrey Modell Foundation ( has developed a list of warning signs for primary immunodeficiency. Talk to your doctor if you or your child has more than one of these warning signs:

  • Eight or more ear infections in one year

  • Two or more serious sinus infections in one year.

  • An infection that does not get better even after two or more months of antibiotic therapy

  • Poor weight gain or lack of normal growth in your baby

  • Deep skin or organ abscesses that keep coming back

  • After the age of one year, hard-to cure thrush (a fungal infection) in the mouth or elsewhere in the skin

  • Need for intravenous antibiotic treatment to clear infections

  • Two or more serious infections deep below the skin

  • A family history of primary immunodeficiency

More Information About Primary Immunodeficiency

For more information, you can contact these groups:

The Jeffrey Modell Foundation

747 Third Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Telephone: 1–212–819–0200

Fax: 1–212–764–4180

Web site:

Immune Deficiency Foundation

40 West Chesapeake Ave.

Suite 308

Towson, MD 21204

Telephone: 1–800–296–4433

Web site:

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2003 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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