Living With Allergies: A Glossary

WEBMD provides this concise glossary of allergy, allergen, and allergy medication terms. Use this allergy glossary to understand some of the technical terms that you may read in your allergy research and treatment.

Living With Allergies: A Glossary

Allergen
A foreign substance your body perceives as harmful, triggering an allergic reaction.

Allergist
A doctor who diagnoses and treats allergy-related conditions.

Anaphylaxis
A life-threatening allergic reaction involving your entire body. Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention.

Antihistamines
These drugs block histamine — a chemical your body releases during an allergic reaction — reducing symptoms such as itching, sneezing, and runny nose.

Asthma
A chronic inflammatory lung disease. Symptoms include breathing problems, fatigue, headaches, and cough. Asthma is often triggered by allergens, infection, exercise, cold air, or other factors.

Atopic Dermatitis
See “Eczema”

Bronchitis
An inflammation of the lung airways. Symptoms include a persistent cough and phlegm. Bronchitis is usually seen in smokers and in places with high pollution.

Contact dermatitis
An allergic reaction that occurs after your skin comes in contact with an allergen such as poison ivy, washing powders, perfumes, or other irritants.

Dander
Small pieces of skin shed by an animal, similar to human dandruff. Proteins found in dander are the major causes of pet allergies.

Decongestants
Medications that shrink swollen nasal membranes, decreasing congestion and mucus, and making it easier to breathe.

Eczema
A chronic inflammation of the skin that causes a rash. Eczema may be a reaction to an allergen. Symptoms include itching, crusting, blisters, and scaling. Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema that worsens after exposure to an allergen.

Epinephrine
A medication used to immediately treat severe allergic reactions. Also known as adrenaline. Epinephrine causes an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.

Inflammation
Redness, swelling, heat, and pain in a tissue. Such symptoms can be the result of an allergic reaction in the nose, lungs, or skin.

Hay fever
Also known as allergic rhinitis. Hay fever is an inflammation of the mucus membranes in the nose. Hay fever often results from allergies to pollen, dust, and other substances. Symptoms include sneezing, itching, runny nose, and nasal congestion.

Histamine
A chemical released by your immune system after it’s exposed to an allergen. It causes tissues to become swollen, inflamed, itchy, and red.

Hives
An allergic reaction of the skin. Symptoms include itchy, swollen, red bumps that appear suddenly. Hives can show up anywhere, including lips, tongues, and ears. Also known as urticaria.

Latex allergy
An allergy to the latex proteins found in many rubber or latex products, including rubber gloves, tubing, rubber bands, etc.

Nasal spray
Over-the-counter or prescription drugs that can treat and prevent nasal symptoms such as congestion and runny nose.

Occupational asthma
Breathing problems caused by potentially harmful substances found where you work, including fumes, dust, gases, and other irritants.

Pollen
A central cause of many allergic reactions, pollen is a fine, powdery substance released by trees, grasses, weeds, and flowering plants.

Rhinitis
See “Hay Fever”

Sinuses
Mucus-membrane-lined air pockets located behind the eyes and nose.

Sinusitis
Inflammation or infection of the membranes lining the sinuses. Symptoms include pain and pressure with a runny or stuffy nose.

Urticaria
See “Hives”

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on January 08, 2008
© 2008 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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