The immune system is a network of cells and organs that work together to defend the body against attacks by "foreign" invaders. The foreign invaders are germs. The body provides an excellent environment for germs and microbes. When they do break into a system it is the immune system's job to keep them out or to seek and destroy them.
When the immune system is malfunctioning it can cause a variety of diseases, such as allergy, arthritis, cancer or AIDS. The immune system is complex and sophisticated. It can recognize enemies and in most cases fight off the germ before we even know it has invaded our system. Anything that can trigger an immune response is called an antigen. When the immune system identifies a substance as harmful, when in fact it is not and attempts to fight it, that is when allergic reactions occur. We call the misidentified object an allergen.
For more information on immunology please see:
- American Association of Immunologists
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
- Children's Mercy Hospital Allergy Section
- Clinical Immunology Society
- Immune Deficiency Foundation
- Joint Council of Allergy Asthma & Immunology
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
- National Institutes of Health
- National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine
If you have any questions, please e-mail them to the AAAAI executive office.