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Speaking “Allergy-ese:” An Asthma and Allergy Glossary

Allergen - A foreign substance that causes allergies.  This foreign substance can be airborne such as pollen, dust, animal dander or mold and can trigger an immune response in the body.  Other allergens include venom, food, and drugs such as penicillin and latex.  The immune response or allergic reaction produces antibodies which cause symptoms like itchy eyes, runny nose, coughing, asthma and eczema.

Allergic Conjunctivitis - Inflammation of the delicate tissue around the eyeball and the underside of the eyelid. Symptoms include red, water, itchy eyes.

Allergic Reaction - An adverse immune response following repeat contact with allergens.  The allergic reaction is the immune system responding to antibodies caused by the allergens.  An allergic reaction can be itchy eyes, runny nose, coughing, asthma, eczema, and hives.

Allergic Rhinitis - Inflammation of the nasal linings due to an allergic reaction to an allergen after it is inhaled.  Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose and ears, and watery eyes.  If left untreated, allergic rhinitis can lead to ear infections and sinus infections.

Anaphylaxis - A life-threatening allergic reaction that affects many organs throughout the body at the same time.  The symptoms usually occur within moments of exposure to the allergen and can include flushing, a red, itchy rash or hives, welling and congestion of nose, tongue, and throat, nausea and vomiting, wheezing and shortness of breath and a fall in blood pressure.

Angioedema - A reaction in the skin and underlying tissue marked by swelling and red blotches.

Anti-inflammatory Drugs - A group of drugs that reduce the inflammation in the mucosal linings.

Antibiotics - A group of drugs that destroy the bacteria that cause ear infections, sinus infections and bronchitis in long term allergic reactions.  Antibiotics do not destroy viruses and are not used to treat viral infections.  Types of antibiotics are Amoxicillin, Zithromax, Biaxcin, Augmentin.

Antihistamines - A group of drugs that block the effects of histamine, a chemical released in the body fluids during an allergic reaction such as Allergic Rhinitis.  Some over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl can cause extreme drowsiness.  Examples of antihistamines include: Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec.

Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) - A skin condition that is often triggered by allergic reactions, especially to foods.  Symptoms include red, itchy, dry skin usually in elbow creases, behind knees, on neck or around eyes.

Bronchitis - An inflammation infection of the lung resulting in persistent cough. Can be part of an allergic response.

Bronchodilators - A group of drugs that widen the airways in the lungs of an asthma patient.

Corticosteroids - A group of anti-inflammatory drugs used in the treatment of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and eczema.

Decongestants - A group of drugs that help to “dry-up” fluid produced when the body has an allergic reaction.  Often use in the treatment of Allergic Rhinitis.  A type of decongestant is Sudafed.

Extrinsic Asthma - Asthma that is triggered by an allergic reaction, usually something inhaled such as smoke, pollen, dust or animal dander.  Symptoms include chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.

Inhaler - A device that delivers asthma medication directly to the lungs.

Intrinsic Asthma - Asthma that has no apparent external cause.

Nebulizer - A device that produces a vapor of medication to ease breathing.

Perennial Allergic Rhinitis - Allergic Rhinitis that occurs year round.  Most often caused by allergens that are always present such as dust mites, molds and animal dander.

Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis - Allergic Rhinitis that typically occurs only in the spring or fall when certain plant pollens fill the air.  Also known as hay fever.

Skin Testing - A light scrating of the skin surface with a small quantity of allergen to identify allergic triggers.  If after 20 minutes of application, the scratched area produces a large raised hive, the patient is most likely allergic.

Spacer Device - an apparatus that helps to deliver inhaler medication to the lungs.

Spirometry - A breathing test that evaluates lung function.  Used to diagnose asthma and monitor the effectiveness of asthma drugs.

Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT)/(Allergy Shots) - A form of preventative treatment for allergic response to allergens such as pollens, dust mites, mold and stinging insect venom.  SCIT involves giving injections of gradually increasing doses of the allergen to the person who is allergic.  The slow increase of the allergen(s) causes the immune system to become less sensitive to the allergen(s) and thereby, reduces the allergic reaction.

Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT)/(Allergy Drops) - A form of preventative treatment for allergic response to allergens such as pollens, dust mites and mold.  SLIT involves drops of extract under your tongue once a day of increasing doses of the allergen(s).  This slow increase of the allergen(s) causes the immune system to become less sensitive to the allergen(s) and thereby, reduces the allergic reaction.

Urticaria - A skin condition, commonly known as hives. Can be part of an allergic reaction.

Learn more about the Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM here.


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