Allergy/Asthma Information Association

Glossary / Definitions

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

ACTION PLAN
A written plan prepared by a physician for an asthma patient giving details about the treatment plan and information on "what to do" when symptoms occur. Also called "Management Plan".
ADRENALINE
A hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stressful situations. In synthetic form, it is known as "epinephrine".
AEROCHAMBER
A device that temporarily holds asthma medication allowing the user to take two or three breaths from one inhaler dose.
ALLERGEN
Any substance capable of causing an allergic reaction e.g., pollens, moulds, animal dander, house dust mites, foods, insect stings, medications, natural latex, etc.
ALLERGIC MARCH
A particular pattern and progression of allergic conditions that is seen in some allergic children.
ALLERGIST
A medical doctor who has first specialized in Internal Medicine and then has obtained the additional subspecialty training required to qualify as a specialist in allergy and immunology.
ALVEOLI
Air sacs located at the end of the bronchioles where oxygen is absorbed into the blood-stream and carbon dioxide is removed.
ANAPHYLAXIS
A severe potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention.
ANATOMY
The structure of an organism.
ANESTHETIC AGENTS
Medications used during surgery or other medical procedures to reduce sensitivity to pain and/or to induce unconsciousness.
ANTIBODIES
Proteins formed by white blood cells in response to foreign particles entering the body.
ANTIHISTAMINE
A drug that blocks the effects of histamine, which is one of the substances released into the tissues during an allergic reaction.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEDICATIONS
Medications that reduce inflammation in the airways; also known as "preventers".
ASA (acetylsalicylic acid)
Ingredient closely related to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat pain, fever and joint inflammation, e.g., Aspirin - some asthmatics are sensitive to this class of medications.
ASTHMA
A common chronic condition affecting the lungs, characterized by inflammation, constriction of the muscles surrounding the airways and excess mucus production.
ATOPIC DERMATITIS
A skin condition occurring as a result of a reaction to a substance to which the person is sensitive; also called allergic eczema.
AUTO-INJECTOR
A "user-friendly" pre-loaded syringe used to administer epinephrine.
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B

BIPHASIC
Allergic reaction occurring in two phases or parts.
BRONCHI
Large air passages leading to the lungs.
BRONCHIOLE
One of the thousands of small airways forming tree-like networks inside each lung.
BRONCHODILATORS
Medications that relax the smooth muscles in constricted airways and provide temporary relief of asthma symptoms; also known as "relievers".
BRONCHOSPASM
Tightening of the muscles surrounding the bronchial tubes; one of the main features of an asthma attack.
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C

CELIAC DISEASE
A condition in which there is a life-long intolerance to the gluten found in wheat and other grains. It is not an allergy.
CHRONIC
Present for a long time or frequently recurring.
CONSTRICTION
A tightening of the muscles around the outside of the airways that have gone into spasm.
CONTROLLER MEDICATIONS
Anti-inflammatory medications that work to prevent and reduce inflammation (redness and swelling) inside the air passages of the lungs; also known as "preventers".
CORTICOSTEROIDS
Anti-inflammatory medications important in the prevention of asthma and other conditions, and available in several forms, e.g., inhaled, topical, oral and by injection. The inhaled form is the preferred first-line asthma therapy in adults and children. See also CONTROLLER MEDICATIONS.
CROSS-CONTAMINATION
Inadvertent transfer of an allergen from one product to another; can occur during food manufacturing or preparation at home or in restaurants.
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D

DEVICES (ASTHMA)
Mechanisms used to help deliver asthma medication (e.g., metered dose inhalers, aerochambers).
DRUG ALLERGY
An adverse reaction to a medication that results from allergy.
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E

ECZEMA
A common chronic skin condition that causes itchy, red, inflamed and scaly skin. It is often found in people with other allergic conditions.
ELIMINATION DIET
Removing a food from the diet for a period of time, then gradually re-introducing it to determine if it causes an allergic reaction; not to be done if anaphylaxis is suspected.
EPINEPHRINE
A synthetic version of the hormone adrenalin; used in the treatment of anaphylaxis and life-threatening asthma attacks.
EXERCISE-INDUCED BRONCHOSPASM
Constriction of the airways that is triggered by physical activity. This can result in shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing or chest tightness.
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F

FALSE POSITIVE SKIN TEST
A positive skin test result in a person who does not experience clinical manifestations or reactions when exposed to the allergen.
FOOD INTOLERANCE
.
An adverse reaction to food that does not involve allergy; e.g., lactose intolerance is an inability to digest the lactose (sugar) in milk.
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G

GENETIC TENDENCY
The potential for the development of certain conditions due to inherited genetic factors; allergies are more prevalent in some families than others.
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H

HISTAMINE
A chemical released by the mast cells during an allergic reaction (causes symptoms like itching, swelling, sneezing).
HIVES
Itchy, white bumps on the skin; a common symptom of allergic reaction (urticaria).
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I

IDIOPATHIC REACTION
A reaction that results from an unknown cause.
IgE ANTIBODIES (Immunoglobulin E)
An antibody that is produced in response to the presence of an allergen in an allergic individual.
IMMUNE SYSTEM
Infection-fighting part of the body; in allergic individuals, harmless substances trigger the immune system to "fight".
IMMUNOCAP TEST
A blood test used to measure the level of specific IgE antibodies produced in response to allergens; an alternative to skin testing; can be helpful in selecting patients for food challenges.
IMMUNOTHERAPY
A series of desensitizing injections (allergy shots) prescribed by an allergist that may be used to protect against allergy - extremely small amounts of an allergen, such as stinging insect venom, are gradually administered in increasing dosages until a tolerance is developed - not available for all allergens.
INFLAMMATION
Redness or swelling in tissues due to injury or infection; usually present in the nose, lungs or skin in an allergic reaction.
IRRITANTS
Substances that irritate the nose, throat or airways (e.g., paint, gasoline fumes, smoke, air pollution); can trigger symptoms of asthma or rhinitis.
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L

LACTOSE INTOLERANCE
The inability of the digestive system to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. It is not an allergy.
LATEX
Natural rubber latex is a substance that comes from the sap of the rubber tree and used in thousands of manufactured products.
LEUKOTRIENE INHIBITORS
Preventative asthma medications in tablet form used to control inflammation. Used as an additional treatment for some patients.
LOCAL REACTION
A reaction occurring at the immediate site of an allergic exposure, e.g., an insect sting that results in swelling and redness only near the site of the sting.
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M

MAST CELLS
Special cells in the mucosal tissue that release the chemicals associated with an allergic reaction (found in the lining of the nose, lungs, skin, and intestinal tract).
METERED DOSE INHALER (MDI)
A small easy-to-use device that turns medication into a mist. It is usually sprayed directly into the mouth; also called an inhaler or puffer.
MUCUS
A secretion produced by the body that covers and lubricates the inner surfaces of the respiratory and digestive tract (where allergic reactions start).
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N

NATURAL RUBBER LATEX
See LATEX.
NEBULIZATION
Inhalation of asthma medications that have been converted into a fine mist, using a compressor and a mask that fits over the nose and mouth, or a mouthpiece.
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O

ORAL ALLERGY SYNDROME
An allergic condition sometimes found in people allergic to tree pollens who experience symptoms when eating certain fresh fruits, vegetables or nuts; affects the lips, mouth and throat.
ORAL FOOD CHALLENGE
A method of confirming or ruling out a suspected food allergy by feeding the patient, under an allergist's supervision, small but increasing amounts of a suspect food.
OXYGEN SATURATION
A method of measuring the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream.
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P

PEAK FLOW METER
A small blowing device consisting of a mouthpiece and a spring gauge. It is used to measure the force of the air being breathed out and indicates whether or not the airways are constricted. During an asthma flare-up the meter readings drop.
PROTOCOL
A written plan to follow in case of an emergency; useful tool for schools, daycares, summer camps, etc.
PULMONARY FUNCTION TEST
A test that measures the degree of airway obstruction.
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R

RELIEVER MEDICATIONS
These are bronchodilators, also known as "rescue" medications. They help open the airways during an asthma attack. They should work quickly and be effective for 3-12 hours. These medications are used on a short-term basis. Over-use may indicate that asthma is out of control.
RADIOGRAPHIC CONTRAST MEDIA
A substance opaque to X-rays that is used to visualize the structure and function of internal organs.
RAST TEST (radioallergosorbent test)
A blood test used to detect allergies; sometimes used instead of skin testing.
RHINITIS, ALLERGIC
An inflammation of the nasal passages which can cause swelling, sneezing, itching, a runny nose and nasal congestion; sometimes referred to as "hay fever".
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S

SENSITIZATION
An allergic response to an allergen that results in specific IgE antibodies being produced whenever an exposure occurs.
SULPHITE
A frequently used food additive and preservative that is used to prevent foods from spoiling.
SYSTEMIC REACTION
An allergic reaction that affects the whole body or body system, as opposed to a local reaction that is confined to the immediate area of exposure.
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T

TRIGGERS
Factors that can provoke allergic reactions or asthma episodes, including allergens and irritants.
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U

URTICARIA
Hives, can be a symptom of allergy but also may be due to many other causes that not always identifiable.
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V

VESPIDS
A group of stinging insects that includes the yellow jacket, yellow hornet, white-faced hornet and wasp.
VIRAL INFECTIONS
Infections caused by a virus, such as a cold; they are frequent triggers of asthma flare-ups in young children.
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