Glossary of Allergy Terms
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Prefix denoting absence of; lacking,
e.g. alactasia is absence or deficiency of the
A mite or tick.
Common medication for blood pressure,
which might cause urticaria and chronic cough.
Any substance used in conjunction
with another to enhance its activity. Aluminium
salts are used as adjuvants in the preparation
of DPT vaccines.
A drug used to treat anaphylaxis.
(It is very similar to the hormone called adrenaline
that is produced naturally in our bodies and is
responsible for feelings of excitement and stimulation).
Also known as Epinephrine in the USA.
Allergen that is suspended in
the air and breathed into respiratory tract, where
it sets up an allergic reaction.
Any substance to which a person
is allergic (for example, pollen, house dust mite
droppings, animal dander, peanuts).
A predisposition to trigger allergies
or cause allergic sensitisation.
Darkening of skin around eyes
that occurs in allergy sufferers.
Specialist clinic to assess and
carry out diagnostic allergy tests on GP referral.
A pattern that evolves as one
allergic condition slowly progresses into another
as the person grows up.
Medicine (complementary, fringe medicine)
The various systems of healing
including homeopathy, herbal remedies, hypnosis
and faith healing, that are not regarded as part
of orthodox treatment by the medical profession.
A reaction similar in presentation
to anaphylaxis; however, the cause is not IgE-mediated
hypersensitivity. Example: Generalized hives due
to direct release of histamine from mast cells
A severe allergic reaction with
swelling, breathing problems and shock.
Failure of lymphocytes that have
been primed by an antigen to respond on second
contact with the antigen
A loss of the sense of smell.
Similar to hives in that swelling
of the skin occurs, but angioedema affects the
deeper, subcutaneous layer of the skin and the
swollen areas are not itchy. It usually affects
the face, genitalia, hands & feet.
Proteins that are produced by
our immune system in order to protect our body
from intruders such as bacteria and
viruses. Immunoglobulin E is the antibody involved
in allergic reactions.
Medicines that are used to treat
allergic reactions. They work by blocking the
effect of histamine. Available as liquids, tablets
and nasal sprays.
Nose and eye drops, inhalers and
capsules that help prevent allergy. Based on chromoglycate,
which is derived from a Middle Eastern plant call
Nose sprays, Inhalers and Creams
that contain steroids based on Beclomethasone.
See Preventers and Corticosteroids.
A genus of fungi, which can cause
infection or allergy of the respiratory system
in man (Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis).
A disease in which the airways
(the breathing tubes taking air in and out of
the lungs) become inflamed and swollen, making
breathing difficult. In many cases it is caused
by an allergy.
A predisposition to develop allergy,
which may remain latent until clinical allergy
develops. Diagnosed by having at least 1 positive
skin prick test response or personal or first
degree family history of asthma, eczema or hay
Wasting away of a normally developed
organ or tissue.
One of the growing number of otherwise
unrelated disorders now suspected of being caused
by the inflammation and destruction of tissues
by the bodys own antibodies (autoantibodies).
These disorders include Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
(SLE), rheumatic fever, and several forms of Thyroid
dysfunction including Hashimotos disease.
A type of lymphocyte that produces
antibodies in the humoral arm of the immune system.
A strain of tubercle bacillus
that has lost the power to cause tuberculosis
but retaining its antigenicity; it is therefore
used to prepare a vaccine against the disease.
Describes a tumour that does not
invade or destroy the tissue in which it originates
Drugs used to relax the bronchial
airways, but it also increases heart rate and
blood pressure. Bronchodilator medications are
The small airways that carry air
into and out of the lungs. In people with asthma
they become inflamed, narrowed, contracted, and
sticky with mucus.
A medicine based on adrenaline
that is used to treat asthma, such as Salbutamol,
used in relievers.
The sudden, involuntary contraction
of the smooth muscle of the bronchi, as occurs
A corticosteroid drug used as
a nasal spray to treat hay fever or as an inhalant
for asthma. It is also administered as a cream
or ointment to treat eczema.
A milk protein; casein is precipitated
out of milk in acid conditions; it is the principal
protein of cheese.
A factor associated with the definitive
onset of an illness. An example of a causal agent
is the bacteria causing a specific infection.
The relationship is more direct than in the case
of a risk factor, and in general the specific
ill health will only occur if the causal agent
is present. Causal agent is often confused with
An event accomplished with the
assistance of certain cells
An arm of the specific immune
system that defends the body by the ability of
T cells to regulate antibody production and to
kill invading organisms
Swelling (oedema) of the conjunctiva.
Movement of a cell or organism
to the stimulus of a gradient of chemical concentration.
A form of traditional Chinese
medicine that is helpful for some people with
An inflammatory disease of the
intestine, possibly caused by a delayed allergic
reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat,
rye, barley and oats.
An organism that lives in close
association with another of a different species
without either harming or benefiting it. For example,
some microorganisms living in the gut obtain both
food and a suitable habitat but neither harm nor
A substance in the blood, consisting
of a group of nine different fractions, that aids
the bodys defences when antibodies combine
with invading antigens. Complement is involved
in the breaking up (lysis) of foreign cells.
Inflammation of the conjunctiva
(the delicate outer lining of the eyeball).
A type of eczema that occurs when
the skin reacts to a substance that comes into
direct contact with it. The reaction usually takes
24 hours to develop.
A steroid medicine that is used
to treat or prevent allergic reactions by reducing
inflammation. Used in preventer medicines for
people with asthma and in creams to treat eczema.
Severe cases may need to be treated orally with
The interaction of an antigen
with an antibody formed against a different antigen
with which the first antigen shares identical
or closely related properties
A development of diagnostic
radiology for the examination of the soft tissues
of the body. For example, in the sinuses it can
be used to diagnose infection or polyps. The technique
involves recording slices of the body
with an X-Ray scanner (CT scanner); these records
are then integrated by computer to give a cross-sectional
White blood cells, such as cytotoxic
T cells, that are able to release potent chemicals
to kill infected cells. They can also attack organ
Animal dander is the tiny particles
of skin that are shed by animals such as cats
and dogs. These are a major cause of allergies
such as asthma and eczema. All furry animals shed
dander including hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs,
rats, mice, rabbits and horses.
Medicines that help to relieve
the blocked nose associated with allergies such
as hay fever and perennial allergic rhinitis.
Available as tablets and nasal sprays based on
Ephedrine. They relieve congestion by causing
A type of hypersensitivity that
is mediated by T cells, e.g., allergic contact
dermatitis. Gell and Coombs Type 1V Reaction
Crease seen under eyelid in allergy
Another name for eczema which
includes Atopic Dermatitis and Contact Dermatitis.
A red, raised wheal that develops
if the skin is firmly stroked. Commonly seen in
people with Urticaria.
A type of house dust mite. Most
common cause of asthma in the UK & NZ
A fungus belonging to any one
of the genera (Microsporum, Trichophyton, and
Epidermophyton) that can feed on keratin and cause
Any disease of the skin, particularly
one without inflammation
A large group of insects, including
mosquitoes, gnats and houseflies, that possess
a single pair of wings.
Test in which neither the physician
nor the patient knows whether a placebo (dummy)
is being administered or a drug or specific food
is being administered.
A combined vaccine against diphtheria,
whooping cough, and tetanus.
Microscopic creatures that live
off human dead skin and are a common source of
Laboured or difficult breathing.
A group of skin conditions characterised
by dry, red, flaky, itchy skin. The most common
form of eczema is allergic or Atopic Eczema (also
called Infantile Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis).
Enzyme-linked Immunoassay, A technique
used to detect antigen or antibody.
Special moisturisers - available
as bath oils, creams and ointments - that are
used to help prevent eczema and hydrate the skin.
Usually contain Liquid Paraffin, Cetomacrogol
and Emulsifying Wax.
A poison generally harmful to
all body tissues contained within certain Gram-negative
bacteria and released only when the bacterial
cell is broken down or disintegrates. Compare
Method of labeling all food additives
in the European Union. For example, E102 is the
food colourant Tartrazine.
White blood cells containing chemical
filled granules that when released kill parasites.
Also, eosinophils found in the blood or mucous
secretions indicates the presence of allergy.
A prefix denoting: 1. Good, well
or easy 2. Normal E.g. euthyroid - having a thyroid
gland that functions normally.
The destruction and removal of
the surface of the skin or the covering of an
organ by scraping.
An occupational lung disease caused
by an allergy to fungal spores that grow in inadequately
dried stored hay, straw or grain. Also known as
A diet that purports to treat
many illnesses by the elimination of artificial
food colouring, preservatives and salicylates
from the diet. It has been recommended for the
treatment of hyperactivity syndrome, but is of
Chemical added to food to enhance
flavour, colour and prevent spoiling, but which
might cause adverse reaction. Example is Monosodium
Glutamate (MSG). See E-numbers.
Fear that a food will cause an
or food sensitivity
A sensitivity or bad reaction
to certain foods that does not involve the immune
system so is not an allergy. Examples are Lactose
and Caffeine Intolerance.
Reaction to a poison contained
in a food.
Test carried out in hospital to
identify suspected food allergens by giving traces
of food concealed in capsules or broth. Open Food
Challenge is when the food is not concealed.
The speed with which air is exhaled
during the first second in a pulmonary function
A condition in which a patient
complains of symptoms for which no physical cause
can be found. Such a condition is frequently an
indication of a psychological disorder. Compare
The amount of air that can be
forced from the lungs over 14 to 20 seconds.
The backward flow of gastric juices
from the stomach into the esophagus.
reflux disease (GORD)
The syndrome caused by abnormal
gastro-oesophageal reflux, which include symptoms
of heartburn and regurgitation.
Denoting a drug name that is not
protected by a trademark.
Low-grade eardrum inflammation
associated with fluid in middle ear cavity.
A flanged metal or plastic tube
that is inserted in the eardrum in cases of glue
ear. It allows air to enter the middle ear, bypassing
the patients non-functioning Eustachian
The coughing up of blood.
An allergy caused by breathing
in pollen and by pollen getting into the eyes.
Affects the delicate lining of the nose and eyes.
Also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis.
A genus of Gram-negative bacteria.
The species H. pylori (formerly classified as
Campylobacter pylori) is found in the stomach.
It is associated with duodenal ulcer.
High Efficiency particulate air filters
Filters capable of removing 0.3-micron
diameter with an efficiency of at least 99.97%.
An enzyme widely distributed in
the body, which is responsible for the inactivation
A natural chemical that is released
by Mast Cells in the body initiating an allergic
reaction which leads to inflammation in affected
parts of the body.
An amino acid from which histamine
Another name for urticaria.
A system of medicine based on
the theory that like cures like. The
patient is treated with extremely small quantities
of drugs that are themselves capable of producing
symptoms of the particular disease.
A tiny 0.5mm long spider-like
insect that inhabits carpets, bedding and soft
furnishings. It eats human skin flakes and thrives
in humid environments. Their droppings cause allergies
such as Asthma, Eczema and Rhinitis.
The arm of the specific immune
system that protects the body by producing antibodies.
Exaggerated reactions of the immune
system. Gell and Coombs described 4 types: Type
I, allergy; Type II, cytotoxic reactions (organ
transplantation rejection); Type III, immune complex
(serum sickness); and Type IV, delayed-type hypersensitivity
Breathing at an abnormally rapid
rate at rest, this causes a reduction in carbon
dioxide concentration in arterial blood, leading
to dizziness, tingling (paraesthesia) in the lips,
limbs and tightness across the chest. If continued
hyperventilation can cause loss of consciousness.
This sequence of events occurs in the Hyperventilation
Syndrome (HVS), which has been estimated to contribute
to 10% of outpatient referrals to hospital.
A substance which is unlikely
to provoke an allergy. Used to describe milk formula,
foods medication or creams.
Any of a group of disorders, usually
hereditary, in which there is noninflammatory
scaling of the skin.
Denoting a disease or condition
the cause of which is not known or that arise
An unusual or unexpected sensitivity
exhibited by an individual to a particular drug
An antibody found in tears, saliva,
and mucus, it protects the entrances of the body.
E-class immunoglobulin (antibody).
The type of immunoglobin that triggers release
of Histamine from Mast Cells and sets off an acute
An antibody that reaches peak
levels after IgM and sustains the bodys
The lowest of the three portions
of the small intestines.
An IgE-mediated response of the
immune system. Gell and Coombs Type 1.
Protected against a particular
infection by the presence of specific antibodies
against the organisms concerned.
A cluster of interlocking antibodies
The response of the immune system
to antigens. There are two types of immune response
produced by two populations of lymphocytes. B-lymphocytes
are responsible for humoral immunity, producing
free antibodies that circulate in the blood stream;
and T-lymphocytes are responsible for cell-mediated
The production of immunity by
artificial means. Passive immunity, which
is temporary, may be conferred by the injection
of an antiserum, but the production of active
immunity calls for the use of treated antigens,
to stimulate the body to produce its own antibodies:
this is the procedure of vaccination (also
called inoculation). The material used for immunization
(the vaccine) may consist of live bacteria or
viruses so treated that they are harmless while
remaining antigenic or completely dead organisms
or their products (e.g. toxins) chemically or
physically altered to produce the same effect.
A type of immune antibody that
may be involved in policing the body
for foreign bacteria and allergens. Examples are
IgE, IgA, IgG an IgM.
Suppression of the immune response,
usually by disease (e.g. AIDS) or by drugs (e.g.
Steroids, Azathioprine, Cyclosporin A).
A treatment for allergy to bee
and wasp stings and severe hay fever. It involves
having a 3-year course of injections of tiny amounts
of the allergen. The treatment leads to the person
becoming less sensitive to the allergen.
A skin infection due to the Staphylococcus
Bacterium, it forms scabs and has a honey-crust
A measure of morbidity based on
the number of new episodes of illness arising
in a population over an estimated period. It can
be expressed in terms of sick persons or episodes
per 1000 individuals at risk. Compare prevalence
period (latent period)
The interval between exposure
to an infection and the appearance of the first
The bodys response to injury,
which may be acute or chronic. Acute inflammation
is the immediate defensive reaction of the tissue
to any injury. It involves pain, heat, redness,
swelling, and loss of function of the affected
part. In certain circumstances healing does not
occur and chronic inflammation.
A device that enables people with
respiratory complaints, including asthma, to breathe
certain medicines in through their mouth, directly
into their lungs.
An allergy provoking protein suspended
in the air that we breathe. See Aeroallergen.
Powerful chemicals released by
lymphocytes and monocytes that regulate the immune
Any of a family of proteins that
control some aspects of the immune response. There
are 12 interleukins currently characterised; interleukin-2
(IL-2) stimulates T-lymphocytes.
A comparison of the outcome between
2 or more groups of patients that are deliberately
subjected to different regimes (usually of treatment
but sometimes of a preventative measure, such
as vaccination). Wherever possible those entering
the trial should be allocated to the respective
groups by means of random numbers, and one such
group (controls) should have no active
treatment (randomised controlled trial).
Ideally neither the patient nor the person assessing
the outcome should be aware of which therapy is
allocated to which patient (blind trial),
nor should the doctor responsible for the treatment
(double-blind trial), and the groups should
exchange treatment after a pre-arranged period
Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
A common condition, in which recurrent
abdominal pain with constipation and/or diarrhoea,
continues for years, without any general deterioration
in health. There is no detectable structural disease.
The cause is unknown, but the condition is often
associated with stress or anxiety.
A conical cornea.
Dry sandpaper-rough skin texture
found commonly in allergy sufferers.
When allergy testing is positive
but no clinical allergy has yet developed to that
allergen. See Atopy.
Rubber derivative commonly found
in hospitals in surgical gloves, catheters and
intravenous drip-sets. May cause severe allergic
reactions during operations.
All white blood cells
New anti-inflammatory oral medication
The thickening of the epidermis
layer of the skin, caused by excessive scratching
and rubbing. Seen in patients with eczema
Small white blood cells that make
up the specific immune system B cells,
T cells and natural killer (NK) cells
Facial Appearance of the chronic
nasal allergy sufferer.
A substance produced by lymphocytes,
that has an effect on other cells involved in
the immune system. An example is Interleukin 2
Large phagocytic cells found in
tissues and in blood vessel walls. They destroy
organisms by engulfing them and presenting them
to T and B cells; this to activate antibody production
The part of an antigen molecule
that is responsible for the specific interaction
with an antibody. Penicilloyl is the major determinant
of penicillin because it is responsible for 95%
of the anaphylaxis that occurs in penicillin allergic
The cells that release histamine
during an allergic reaction after being triggered
by an allergen binding to IgE on its surface.
Microscopic fungi, the spores
of which can cause asthma in some people. Cladosporium
and Alternaria spores are most allergenic.
A combined vaccine against measles,
mumps and German measles (rubella).
An antibody produced artificially
from a cell clone and therefore consisting of
a single type of immunoglobulin. Monoclonal antibodies
are produced by fusing antibody-forming lymphocytes
from mouse spleen with mouse myeloma cells. The
resulting hybrid cells multiply rapidly (like
cancer cells) and produce the same antibody as
their parent lymphocyte.
Large phagocytic white blood cells
that turn into macrophages when they enter the
The state of being diseased. The
morbidity rate is the number of cases of a disease
found to occur in a stated number of the population,
usually given as cases per 100,000 or per million.
Annual figures of morbidity rate give the incidence
of the disease, which is the number of new
cases reported in the year.
Describing a skin rash resembling
that of measles.
The incidence of death in the
population in a given period. The annual mortality
rate is the number of registered deaths in a year,
multiplied by 1000 and divided by the population
at the middle of the year.
A mental disorder in which the
patient persistently tries to obtain medical treatment,
for an illness that is non-existent: it is an
extreme form of malingering. In Munchausens
Syndrome by proxy, the patient inflicts harm
on others (often children) in order to attract
Any disease caused by a fungus
Nasal Concha (turbinate bone)
Any of the three thin scroll-like
bones that form the sides of the nasal cavity.
The superior and middle nasal conchae are part
of the ethmoid bone; the inferior nasal conchae
are a separate pair of bones.
Rubbing of itchy nose due to nasal
A localised oral allergic reaction
to fruit, vegetables and nuts in Hay Fever sufferers.
Inflammation of the ear.
The study of ear, nose, and throat
diseases (i.e. ENT disorders).
An epidemic so widely spread that
vast numbers of people in different countries
The air-filled spaces, lined with
mucous membrane, within some of the bones of the
skull. They open into the nasal cavity, via the
meatuses, and are named according to the bone
in which they are situated. They comprise the
frontal sinuses and the maxillary sinuses
(one pair each), the ethmoid sinuses (consisting
of many spaces inside the ethmoid bone), and the
two sphenoid sinuses.
Skin tests that can show which
substances are causing allergic contact dermatitis
or eczema. The test patch is usually applied to
the skin on the persons back for 48 hours.
Device to measure lung expiration
and used to monitor asthma severity.
An allergic condition that has
similar symptoms to hay fever but occurs all the
year round and is confused with a permanent
An eruption of large blisters
occurring after exposure to light in people who
have been in contact with certain plants, such
as wild parsnip, to which they are sensitive.
A genus of yeast, producing superficial
infection of the skin.
The male seed of plants
(grasses, flowers, trees) that consists of microscopic
dust-like particles. Can cause hay fever, conjunctivitis
A benign growth with ramifications
growing in a mucous cavity for e.g. Nasal Polyp.
Eczema of the palms of the hands
and soles of the feet, associated with intense
A measure of morbidity based on
current sickness in a population, estimated either
at a particular time (point prevalence) or
over a stated period (period prevalence). It
can be expressed either in terms of sick people
(persons) or episodes of sickness per 1000 individuals
at risk. Compare incidence rate.
Medicines (often based on steroids)
that are usually breathed in from inhalers by
people with asthma. Help to prevent the disease
when taken on a regular basis. Also see Corticosteroids
Reaction that mimics an allergy
and does not involve the immune system.
Skin rash resulting from bleeding
into the skin from small blood vessels; the individual
purple spots of the rash are called petechiae.
Radio AllergoSorbent Test
a blood test to diagnose what causes a particular
allergy. It measures the amount of IgEs in the
blood, produced in response to certain allergens.
The CAP-RAST is a newer version RAST with over
400 different allergen tests available.
DNA that contains genes from different
sources that have been combined by the technique
of genetic engineering rather than by breeding
experiments Genetic engineering is therefore also
known as recombinant DNA technology.
Medicines based on Salbutamol
that are used to treat the symptoms of an asthma
attack by dilating the small airways. Also see
A backward-looking review of the
characterics of a group of individuals in relation
to morbidity, embracing some aspects of cross-sectional
and/or case control studies.
A runny nose, usually with thin
The triad of asthma, aspirin sensitivity
and nasal polyps. .
Severe combined Immune Deficiency.
Alteration of the responsiveness
of the body to the presence of foreign substances.
In the development of allergy, an individual becomes
sensitised to a particular allergen and
reaches a state of hypersensitivity.
An allergy test that involves
putting a small amount of a known allergen on
to a scratch in the skin, to see if the body reacts.
Used to diagnose allergy to various pollens, house
dust mite droppings and pet dander. Fresh food
extracts may be used to accurately skin test for
A plastic tube that fits between
the inhaler and the mouth to increase the delivery
of atomised medication to the lungs.
An instrument used for measuring
the volume of air inhaled and exhaled.
A severe attack of asthma, which
often follows a period of poorly controlled asthma.
Describing a disease or condition
that is suspected but not sufficiently developed
to produce definite signs and symptoms in the
Beneath the skin. A subcutaneous
injection is given beneath the skin. Subcutaneous
tissue is loose connective tissue, often fatty,
situated under the dermis.
A falling-off in the effects produced
by a drug during continuous use.
A type of lymphocyte responsible
for cell-mediated immunity by regulating B cell
production of antibodies and by acting directly
to kill antigens.
An antifungal drug used to treat
severe ringworm. Trade name: Lamisil.
A bronchodilator drug used in
the treatment of asthma. Trade name: Bricanyl.
Any noise (buzzing, ringing, etc)
in the ear. There are many causes including wax
in the ear.
Genus of fungi, parasitic to man,
that frequently infects the skin, nails, and hair
and cause ringworm.
Something that can aggravate an
allergic reaction but is not necessarily the actual
cause of the allergy. Examples are viruses, exercise,
cigarette smoke and cold air.
Enzyme released in acute allergic
reactions and during anaphylaxis, which can be
measured on a blood test to confirm that an allergic
reaction has definitely occurred.
Delicate inner lining of the nasal
passage that swells with nasal allergy and blocks
A condition characterised by an
itchy, bumpy rash. Often caused by an allergy.
Also called hives or nettle rash.
A means of producing immunity
to a disease by using a vaccine, or special preparation
of antigenic materia, to stimulate the formation
of appropriate antibodies.
Anon allergic rhinitis caused
by changes in temperature, strong odours, or smoke.
A toxic substance secreted by
an insect or a snake.
The maximum volume of air that
a person can exhale after maximum inhalation.
It is usually measured on an instrument called
A raised bump on the skin that
indicates an allergy in a skin prick test. Also
seen on the skin as Urticaria.
A treatment for eczema that involves
applying emollients and corticosteroid creams
to the affected parts of the body and then wrapping
the body in wet bandages.
A mild form of the hereditary
disorder, ichthyosis in which the skin is dry
Abnormal dryness of the conjunctiva,
the skin or mucous membrane.
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