This glossary is intended for informational purposes only. Please see your health care provider with any questions about your health or your treatment.



Acute -can refer to sudden or relatively quick onset of condition; short-term or brief condition in contrast to chronic; intense as sometimes refers to severity


Albumin – name of a protein in egg whites that can be responsible for an allergic reaction and a term that egg allergic individuals should be able to recognize on a food label


Allergic Conjunctivitis – allergic inflammation of the membrane lining the eye


Allergic Rhino Conjunctivitis – allergic inflammation of the nose and eyes

Allergic Salute -rubbing the nose, in a upward motion, to relieve nasal itching;chronically rubbing the nose in this manner can leave a crease on the bridge of the nose.


Allergic Shiner – “darken circle” under the eye from the swelling of blood vessels due to allergy


Allergist -a physician who is a specialist in diagnosing and treating allergy and asthma


Allergy -an inappropriate immune response or hypersensitivity to a normally harmless substance (allergen)


Allergy Immunotherapy – allergy shots; allergen desensitization; giving by injection small increasing amounts of the allergen to which one is allergic. Note: Conventional immunotherapy builds up over a period of months. With rapid desensitization or RUSH immunotherapy, several months of build-up are accomplished in less than a day — after the patient has taken several medications for a few days prior to the procedure.


Anaphylaxis – a severe and life-threatening systemic (whole body) allergic reaction


Antibody -immunoglobulin; a protein made by white blood cells that works to protect against something the immune system perceives as harmful

Note: While antibodies can be protective, an antibody produced against a harmless substance or excessive formation of antibodies can make one sick. The antibody associated with allergic reactions is called IgE. Asthma, allergic rhinitis or eczema can result when an allergen causes an antibody (IgE) response.


Antigen – a substance than can trigger the immune system to respond with the production of an antibody; an allergen is a type of antigen.


Antihistamine -medication that reduces or blocks the effects of histamine, a chemical involved in an allergic reaction


Anti-inflammatory medicines – a group of medicines that reduce inflammation and treat asthma/allergy in which inflammation is an underlying cause


Asthma -chronic inflammatory condition of the lungs involving an overreaction to a variety of triggers (stimuli) resulting in narrowed and swollen airways along with excessive mucus production.


Board certified – certification of a physician in a specialty; particularly well-qualified in a specific medical specialty


Bronchi – large airways that carry air from the trachea to the smaller airways of the lungs


Bronchial Tubes – breathing tubes or air passages used to carry air in and out of the lungs


Bronchioles – small airways in the lungs that branch off the bronchi


Broncho-constriction -narrowing of the breathing tubes


Broncho-dilators – medication (usually inhaled but can be taken orally) that relaxes the muscles around the bronchial tubes so that air can more easily pass through


Broncho-spasm – tightening of the muscles around the bronchial tubes


Chronic – long-term condition; on-going; continual


Cold urticaria – hives caused by exposure to cold


Corticosteroid medications – anti-inflammatory drugs (like the natural hormone of the same name that is produced by the body)


Cough suppressant – medication to keep one from coughing by suppressing the cough. Note: Coughing due to asthma is treated with other types of medicines; one type relaxes the muscles around narrowed airways and another type of medicine decreases inflammation.


Decongestant – medication to reduce nasal congestion or stuffiness which is available as an oral drug or as an over-the-counter nasal spray. Note: An OTC topical decongestant should NEVER be used more than a few days in a row; consult a physician before using in children.


Early Warning Signs – symptoms or less obvious signs that you can learn to recognize in YOU of YOUR child before asthma symptoms start or get severe


Eczema – inflammatory condition of the skin which can cause intense itching, crusting, scaling, and/or blisters


Epinephrine – commonly referred to as adrenaline; a hormone released by the adrenal gland; it is produced synthetically as a drug and used in treating anaphylaxis


Exhale – breathe out


Food elimination and challenge – test which can help diagnose food allergy; eliminating a food from the diet for a period of time and observing for symptoms when reintroducing the food. Note: When food allergy symptoms cause breathing problems, hives, or other severe symptoms, challenge should never be done at home but upon advice and under the supervision of a physician.


GERD – Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease; in some individuals, it may trigger asthma


HayFever – seasonal allergic rhinitis (see Rhinitis)


HEPA – air filter which can be found in room air cleaners, in vacuums, or available for whole-house filtration; the letters stand for High Efficiency Particulate Air


Histamine – chemical present in the body and released during an allergic reaction; antihistamines work against this potent chemical


Hives – a common name for the medical term urticaria


ImmunoglobulinE (IgE) – a class of antibody known as the allergic antibody; an antibody known to be responsible for classic allergic reactions



Inflammation – redness, swelling, pain produced by an immune response. Note: The body responds to a substance that it perceives to be harmful. If that response is to an allergen, it is an inappropriate response on the part of the immune system.


Inhale – breathe in


Leukotriene – a chemical mediator of allergic inflammation; a chemical in the body that can lead to inflammatory reactions


Leukotriene modifier – a medicine that can interfere with the action of or block the production of leukotrienes; an oral medicine used to treat allergic inflammation


Mucus – phlegm or sputum; fluid secreted by mucous membranes typically referring to those in nose or lungs


Nasal Irrigation – using saline (a solution of salt water) to wash inside the nose and paranasal sinuses


Nebulizer -machine which turns a liquid into a fine mist for breathing into the lungs; sometimes referred to as an aerosol machine or atomizer


Nocturnal Asthma – asthma occurring at night


Ocular -referring to the eye


Oral Allergy Syndrome – a form of contact urticaria (hives); itching of the lips, tongue, palate, and throat after eating certain (usually raw) fruits and vegetables. It is associated with pollen allergy. This syndrome resolves rapidly and is not to be confused with serious systemic food reactions that include throat tightness and swelling of the lips and tongue requiring epinephrine immediately and emergency medical care.


Ovalbumin -name of a protein in egg whites that can be responsible for an allergic reaction and a term that egg allergic individuals should be able to recognize on a food label


Peak Flow Meter – A hand-held device with a meter to measure how fast one can breathe air out of the large airways


Pollen -the male element in the fertilization of plants; allergen


Prick Test – skin test for allergen sensitivity; skin test in which allergen is placed on the skin prior to “pricking” with a needle


Pulmonary Function Test – breathing test to determine how well air is moving in and out of the lungs


Quick-relief medicine when referring to asthma care -an inhaled short-acting bronchodilator in the beta 2-agonist category which gives relief from bronchospasm within minutes of inhalation; the effects typically last 4-6 hours


RAST – a blood test which detects antibodies to a specific allergen; an abbreviation for Radio Allergo Sorbent Test which is a trademark of the company originating the test


Rhinitis inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the nose — can also involve sinuses and ears. Allergic rhinitis is caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust mites, animal dander, etc.


Rhinitis Medicamentosa — is the medical term for the rebound effect that occurs with chronic use of an over-the-counter topical decongestant nasal spray. An OTC topical decongestant spray should not be used more than a few days in a row since chronic use causes nasal stuffiness that the user is trying to clear.


Scratch Test – skin test for allergen sensitivity; skin test in which the skin is lightly scratched prior to placing an allergen on the scratched area


Side effects -an unintended or unwanted effect of a drug


Sinusitis – inflammation of the lining of the paranasal sinuses which are hollow spaces (air cavities) within the bones of the face and skull


Spores – reproductive cells of certain organisms, including mold


Theophylline -a bronchodilator medicine (a number of brands) which relaxes the muscles around the airways in the lungs making it easier for air to move in and out; Theophylline may also have mild anti-inflammatory effects


Trachea -windpipe; refers to the tube that connects the throat to the bronchial tubes


Trigger – a substance, environmental condition, or circumstance that leads to asthma, an allergic reaction, or an irritation


Urticaria – a condition in which the skin develops itching with white raised places surrounded by a red inflamed area; also known as hives;can be an allergic reaction but there are other causes


Wheezing – a whistling sound, usually heard when breathing out, caused by air trying to pass through narrowed airways; can be a sign of asthma. Note: One can have asthma without wheezing and one can wheeze without having asthma.


Xopenex -a quick-acting bronchocilator for relieving asthma symptoms.


Xolair -sometimes referred to as anti-IgE; an injected potential treatment for diseases associated with the allergic process as it decreases the allergic antibody (IgE); currently used in the treatment of moderate or severe allergic asthma.


Xyzal -an antihistamine available by prescription (levocetirizine).


Zyrtec – an antihistamine (cetirizine) available over-the-counter. Cetirizine used to be only available by prescription.