University of Wisconsin
School of Medicine and Public Health

Glossary of Terms

Acute Chronic Immune System
Allergen Cilia Immunotherapy
Allergic Reaction CT Scan Inflammation
Allergic Rhinitis Dander Mast Cells
Allergy Shots Decongestant Mold
Anaphylaxis Eczema Nebulizer
Antibody Eosinophil Peak Flow Meter
Antigen Food Allergy Pollens
Antihistamine Hay Fever RAST
Anti-Inflammatory Agents Histamine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
Asthma Hives Sinusitis
Avoidance IgE Skin prick test
Bronchodilators   Urticaria

Acute:
Symptoms that begin suddenly and have a short and relatively severe course.

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Allergen:
Any substance that causes an immune response, leading to allergic symptoms. Possible common allergens include pollen and dust mites.

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Allergic Reaction:
An immune system response to a harmless substance that the body mistakenly interprets as harmful.

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Allergic Rhinitis:
An allergic response that affects the mucous membranes of the nose and upper air passages causing runny nose, congestion, sneezing, and scratchy throat. Allergic rhinitis that occurs seasonally is often referred to as “hay fever”.

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Allergy Shots:
See Immunotherapy

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Anaphylaxis:
A sudden severe allergic reaction that involves various areas of the body simultaneously or causes difficulty with swelling that of the throat and tongue. In extreme cases, it can cause death. The type of reaction is sometimes called a general reaction or allergic shock.

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Antibody:
Proteins that are made by the body in response to an antigen. Antibodies act specifically against the antigen (allergen) that provoked their production.

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Antigen:
A substance that reacts with antibodies. In an allergic individual the antigen is called an allergen.

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Antihistamine:
A drug that inhibits the action of histamines, a chemical that is released during the allergic reaction. Histamines contract smooth muscles and dilate capillaries causing allergic symptoms.

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Anti-Inflammatory Agents:
Medications to help make the swelling go down in the lining of the airways of the lungs. These medications maintain asthma control and include anti-inflammatory agents (Intal, Tilade), inhaled corticosteroids (Flovent, Azmacort, Pulmicort), oral steroids (Prednisone), and anti-leukotrienes (Singulair, Accolate).

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Asthma:
Asthma is a lung disease with narrowing of the airways, thickening of the airway walls, and airway passages that are “twitchy”.

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Avoidance:
A method for reducing allergy symptoms by reducing the contact with the allergen.

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Bronchodilators:
Medications that are used to relax the muscles that surround the airways in lungs. This includes “rescue medication” such as Albuterol, Proventil, and Ventolin as well as “controller medications” such as Serevent.

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Chronic:
Occurring frequently or lasting a long time.

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Cilia:
Hairlike projections in the mucous membrane of the nose and bronchial tubes that help move mucus and keep nasal passages clear.

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CT Scan:
Computerized Tomography is a type of x-ray that uses a computer to interpret and display images.

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Dander:
Small scales that are shed from the fur, hair, or feathers of animals and may be the cause of allergy in sensitive individuals.

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Decongestant:
A drug that narrows blood vessels and clears nasal congestions.

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Eczema:
Also know as Atopic dermatitis. Characterized by an itchy, red rash typically found at the fold of the elbows and behind the knees. It can oose and cause itching.

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Eosinophil:
A type of cell that is often found in nasal mucus that identifies allergy.

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Food Allergy:
The immune system's reaction to a certain food. The immune system mistakenly reads the food as harmful and creates antibodies to that food. When the food is eaten again, the immune system releases histamine and other chemicals. These chemicals cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

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Hay Fever:
See Allergic Rhinitis

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Histamine:
One of several chemicals release by the body during an allergic reaction. This substance causes many of the symptoms of allergies.

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Hives:
Mosquito-like bumps that are extremely itchy and can appear anywhere on the body.

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IgE:
A type of antibody that is produced by the immune system of allergic individuals.

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Immune System:
The body's defense system that protects against infections.

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Immunotherapy:
Commonly known as allergy shots or desensitization therapy. An extract of the allergen is injected just below the skin in gradually increasing doses to allow the immune system to build up a natural immunity to the allergen.

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Inflammation:
A localized protective response by the body, which results in symptoms including: heat, redness, and swelling.

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Mast Cells:
A type of cell present in large numbers in the nasal membranes and lungs. Activation of these cells by an allergic antibody causes the release of several substances, including histamine and heparin that lead to symptoms such as runny nose, itching, congestion, and mucus production.

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Mold:
Microorganism (fungus) that grows in humid and damp conditions and can take that form of spores which drift in the air.

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Nebulizer:
A nebulizer is a device which holds liquid medication that is turned into a fine mist and deeply inhaled into the airways and lungs.

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Peak Flow Meter:
A peak flow meter is a device which measures how fast an individual can move air out of their lungs in a single breath. It has a hollow mouthpiece on a scale with a marker which moves up the scale as air is blown into the meter.

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Pollens:
A fine powdery substance produced by plants. Pollen drifts in the air and acts as an allergen in many allergic individuals.

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RAST:
RadioAllergoSorbent Test. The patient's blood is mixed with a possible allergen in a test tube. Additional of a radioactive antibody to human antibodies shows whether the allergen can cause an allergic response in the patient.

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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
A common virus that infects the lower respiratory tract. In adults it is a mild cold, but in young children it can lead to pneumonia and brochiolitis. This virus is in the same family as the viruses that cause measles and mumps.

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Sinusitis:
An inflammation of the sinus cavities that is usually caused by bacteria.

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Skin prick test:
An allergy test conducted by placing a drop of the substance being tested on the arm or back. Using a special tool, the top layer of the skin is pricked to allow some of the extract to seep in. If the patient is allergic, a mosquito-like bump will develop at the test site.

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Urticaria:
A medical term for hives.

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