Switch navigation

Allergies: When the Immune System Backfires

Allergies: When the Immune System Backfires

Updated September 2022

The human immune system is designed to fight infection, but sometimes this defence mechanism provokes allergic disorders. In this course, you will explore the similarities and differences of infections and allergies, and understand the intricacies of the immune system.

You will address the events, mishaps, and discoveries that have led to a common understanding of allergies today. You will explore different types of allergies, like food allergies and hayfever, as well as allergy symptoms, methods of diagnosis, and different allergy treatments with the support of case studies.

Note that this course is also published by the University of Basel on FutureLearn. Adapting the course to the format you are seeing meant that we had to change certain aspects. However, there are still traces of the other format in it.

FutureLearn is a global platform offering free online courses that profit from social learning. This means that the original course encouraged discussions between the learners. Unfortunately, this is not possible in this new format - which, on the other hand, has other advantages, for instance that the course content is freely accessible at all times. On FutureLearn, courses are organised in weeks while in the new format we prefer to offer courses in chapters.

We adapted the structure and replaced the discussions by other step types, where this was possible. However, we did not delete the mention of “weeks” or the invitations to “comment and discuss” from the videos as this would have meant that we would need to record certain materials again. So please do not get confused, if the educators talk about “weeks” or invite you to “discuss” something in the comments section.

Throughout the course we invite you to consider questions or review the content in relation to your own environment. We recommend that you write down the results of these reviews and the answers to the questions from the beginning. This way you can keep track of how your knowledge changes. And should you be able to participate in one of the authors’ face-to-face courses, you can thus refer back to your answers and thoughts and discuss them with your peers.


University of Basel


Andreas J. Bircher

Head of Allergology 1991 - 2018 University Hospital Basel Professor emeritus for Allergology University of Basel, Switzerland Adjunct Professor Faculty of biomedical sciences USI Lugano, Switzerland