The cause of autoimmune reactions is not known. It is thought that infection by viruses and bacteria may trigger an autoimmune response. In addition, exposure to certain chemicals and ultraviolet light may alter proteins in the skin; the body may then become sensitive to these proteins and produce autoantibodies against them. Certain individuals seem to be genetically predisposed to have autoimmune responses. Some diseases that are associated with autoimmune responses are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, and pernicious anemia.
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How to help: Call your doctor immediately if you suspect whooping cough. Babies under 6 months will need to be hospitalized. The infection is treated with antibiotics, and other adults and children in your household may need preventive antibiotics and a booster shot to avoid getting sick. (Whooping cough is highly contagious, and immunity begins to wane five years after immunization.) Antibiotics will clear up the infection after about five days if they're started early enough, but your child's cough may linger for months and also return when she gets subsequent respiratory infections.