Allergy and Asthma Terms
Acute - Beginning quickly with intensity, then subsiding
after a relatively short time.
Allergen - A substance that causes allergic reactions in
people who are allergic to it. The allergens that cause asthma
symptoms are typically airborne substances.
reaction - An adverse immune response following repeated contact
with otherwise harmless substances, such as pollen, animal dander,
dust, mold spores, foods or drugs.
- Inflammation of the nose caused by allergy, leading to sneezing
and runny and itchy nose. Also known as hay fever.
Allergist - A
physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic
Allergy - A reaction of the immune
system of an allergic person to substances that are harmless to most
Antibody - A protein (also called an
immunoglobulin) that is manufactured by plasma cells (a type of
white blood cell) to neutralize an allergen. When the body forms a
type of antibody called IgE (immunoglobulin E), an allergic response
may result when the person is again exposed to the allergen which
caused the IgE antibody formation.
A substance that blocks the actions of histamines and, therefore, is
used to treat the symptoms of allergic reactions and/or colds.
Anti-inflammatory - Reduces the symptoms and signs of
inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medications include inhalers and
steroid creams. Although not a drug, immunotherapy ("allergy shots")
reduces inflammation in both allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma.
Asthma - A chronic, inflammatory lung disease characterized
by recurrent breathing problems. Allergens, infection, exercise,
cold air, and other factors can trigger episodes of asthma.
Asthma action or management plan - A plan developed by the
doctor and agreed to by the patient that outlines preventive and
treatment measures for controlling the patient's asthma.
Beta-agonist - A drug that relaxes bronchial muscles
resulting in expansion of the bronchial air passages.
Bronchitis - Acute or chronic inflammation of the bronchial
Bronchodilator - A type of drug that
relaxes bronchial muscles resulting in expansion of the bronchial
Chronic - Continuous, lasting for
a long time.
Compliance - A patient's
fulfillment to the health care provider's instructions.
Corticosteroids - A group of anti-inflammatory drugs
similar to the natural corticosteroid hormones produced by the
cortex of the adrenal glands. Corticosteroid medications are used as
anti-inflammatory agents in the treatment of asthma.
Cromolyn sodium - Asthma drug that acts by decreasing
allergic bronchospasms resulting from inhaled allergens
Diagnose - To determine or analyze a patient's condition by
evaluating signs and symptoms.
Dose - The exact
amount of medicine to be taken at one time or in stated intervals.
Dust mite - A microscopic insect that lives indoors. Its
excretions and decaying body are potent allergens for those who are
sensitive to them.
Eczema - A skin rash associated with an allergic reaction
typically found in individuals with a family history of asthma and
Episode - An event, attack,
or flare of asthma.
Histamine - A chemical in
the body released during an allergic reaction that contracts smooth
muscle, stimulates gastric acid secretion, and causes other allergic
Immune system - A collection
of cells and proteins that works to protect the body from
potentially harmful, infectious microorganisms, such as bacteria,
viruses and fungi. The immune system plays a role in the control of
cancer and other diseases but also is the culprit in allergies,
hypersensitivity, immunologic diseases, and the rejection of
transplanted organs, tissues, and medical implants.
Immunoglobulin E (IgE) - A class of antibody normally present in
very low levels in humans but found in larger quantities in people
with allergies and certain infections. It is the primary antibody
responsible for the classic allergic reaction.
Immunotherapy (allergy shots) - A form of preventive and
anti-inflammatory treatment of allergy to substances such as pollen,
house dust mites, fungi and stinging insect venom. It involves
administering gradually increasing doses of the substance (allergen)
to which the person is allergic. The incremental increases of the
allergen cause the immune system to become less sensitive to the
substance, which reduces the symptoms of allergy when the substance
is encountered in the future.
Redness, swelling, heat, and pain in body tissue caused by chemical
or physical injury or to infection. It is a characteristic of
allergic reactions in the nose, eyes, lungs, and skin.
Inhaler - A device that delivers a pre-measured dose of
medicine, in mist or powdered form, into the mouth to be breathed
directly into the lungs.
Leukotrienes - Chemicals released in the lungs during an
asthma episode that cause airway swelling, tightening of muscles
surrounding the airways, and increased mucus production, all of
which cause symptoms of asthma
Mast cells - Cells that play an important role in the body's
allergic response. They are present in most body tissues, but are
particularly numerous in connective tissue, such as the dermis
(innermost layer of skin.) In an allergic response, an allergen
stimulates the release of antibodies, which attach themselves to
mast cells. Following subsequent allergen exposure, the mast cells
release substances such as histamine (a chemical responsible for
allergic symptoms) into the tissue.
inhaler (MDI) - An inhaler that delivers a pre-measured dose of
medicine in mist form into the mouth to be breathed directly into
Nebulizer - Machine that turns
liquid-containing medicine into a mist to be breathed in
Nocturnal asthma - Asthma that occurs
Peak flow meter - A simple device that
measures the peak flow of air being exhaled, also called the peak
expiratory flow rate. It can detect small changes in the airways and
forewarn of an impending asthma flare.
Radioallergosorbent testing (RAST) - Blood test used to identify
allergens to which a person is allergic. In this test, the allergen
does not come in contact with the patient, so there is no risk of
the patient having an allergic reaction during testing.
Sensitization - An allergic reaction that occurs over time as
a result of repeated exposure to a particular allergen.
Skin test (scratch test) - A test to identify allergens to
which a person is allergic. Substances are injected under the skin,
and sensitivity is determined based on the amount of redness or
swelling in the specific location.
A chamber used with a metered dose inhaler that temporarily holds a
dose of mist to help achieve efficient entry into the lungs.
Spirometer/spirometry testing - A type of breathing test to
measure lung function.
Trigger - Substances
(dust, mold, pollen, chemicals, etc.) or conditions (colds,
infections, gastric juice, etc.) that bother the air passages and
cause asthma symptoms.
Viral infection - An
infection in the body caused by a virus.
A high-pitched whistling noise that can be heard when air moves
through tightened bronchial tubes.