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Allergen: A substance that triggers an allergic reaction.

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Allergic Rhinitis: An allergy affecting the mucus membrane of the nose. Seasonal allergic rhinitis is often called "hay fever."

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Allergist: A doctor that diagnoses, treats, and manages allergy-related conditions.

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Ana-Kit: A device used to inject epinephrine during an anaphylaxis attack.

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Anaphylaxis: A life-threatening allergic reaction that involves the entire body. Anaphylaxis may result in shock or death, and thus requires immediate medical attention

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Animal dander: The small scales or pieces of skin, often containing proteins secreted by oil glands, which are shed by an animal. These proteins are the major causes of allergies to pets.

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Antibiotics: A class of medications used to treat bacterial infections. Certain antibiotics, such as penicillin, may cause an allergic reaction in some people.

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Antibody: A protein in the immune system that recognizes and attacks foreign substances in the body.

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Anticonvulsant: A medication used to prevent or treat seizures. Certain anticonvulsants may cause an allergic reaction in some people.

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Antihistamines: A class of medications used to block the action of histamines in the body and prevent the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

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Asthma: An inflammatory disorder of the airways, causing periodic attacks of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

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Atopic dermatitis: A chronic skin rash, also known as "eczema," that often appears in the first few years of life.

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Basophil: An immune system cell that attaches to antibodies and circulates through out the blood.

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Beta-blockers: A class of blood pressure medications that ease the heart's pumping action and widen the blood vessels. Beta-blockers counteract the effects of epinephrine used for emergency treatment of anaphylactic shock and should not be used during immunotherapy.

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Bronchial tubes: The lower sections of the airway that lead into the lungs.

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Challenge test: A test used to confirm an allergy to specific substance. A doctor will administer small but increasing amounts of a suspected allergen until an allergic response is noticed. Due to the risk of anaphylaxis, this should only be performed under a controlled setting.

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Conjunctivitis: Inflammation of the conjunctiva, or the mucous membrane surrounding the eye. Also known as pinkeye.

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Contact dermatitis: An allergic reaction resulting from skin contact to an allergen.

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Corticosteroid: An anti-inflammatory medication used to treat the itching and swelling associated with some allergic reactions.

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Cromolym sodium: An anti-inflammatory nasal spray used to treat and sometimes prevent allergic rhinitis.

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Decongestants: A class of medications used for nasal congestion. Decongestants are available in oral doses, nasal sprays, or eye drops (for conjunctivitis).

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Dust mites: A microscopic organism that lives in dust.

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Eczema: See Atopic dermatitis.

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Eosinophil: A specific type of immune cell that can cause tissue damage in the late phase of an allergic reaction.

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Epinepherine: A medication used for immediate treatment of anaphylaxis by raising blood pressure and heart rate back to normal levels. Epinepherine is also known as adrenaline.

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EpiPen: A device used to inject epinephrine during an anaphylaxis attack.

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Heparin: A chemical released by basophils and mast cells that causes nearby tissues to become swollen and inflamed.

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Histamine: A chemical released by basophils and mast cells that causes nearby tissues to become swollen and inflamed.

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Hives: See urticaria.

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Hypertension: High blood pressure. When blood pushes against artery walls harder than normal.

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Immunoglobulin E: A type of antibody responsible for most allergic reactions.

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Immunotherapy: A series of shots that help build up the immune system's tolerance to an allergen.

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Insulin: A hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Diabetics who take insulin derived from animals may have allergic reactions.

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Intradermal test: A test where an allergen is injected just underneath the skin. Intradermal tests are generally used when results from a skin prick test are unclear.

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Late Phase: The period 4 - 24 hours after exposure to an allergen where tissue damage may occur.

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Leukotrienes: Inflammatory substances that are released by mast cells during an allergic response or asthma attack.

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Lymphocyte: A specific type of immune cell that can cause tissue damage in the late phase of an allergic reaction.

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Mast cell: An immune system cell which attaches to antibodies and is located in the tissue that lines the nose, bronchial tubes, gastrointestinal tract, and the skin

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Neocromil sodium: An inhaled medication used to treat inflammation involved with asthma.

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Neutrophil: A specific type of immune cell that can cause tissue damage in the late phase of an allergic reaction.

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Otitis media: A middle ear infection. Otitis media with effusion occurs when fluid builds up within the ear.

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Radioallergosorbant Test (RAST): A blood test that measures the amount of IgE antibody produced when the sample is mixed with a specific allergen.

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Rhinitis: An inflammation of the nasal passageways, particularly with discharge.

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Sinusitis: An inflammation or infection of one or more sinuses. The sinuses are hollow air spaces located around the nose and eyes.

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Skin prick test: A test where a needle is used to scratch the skin with a small amount of allergen. A response can usually be seen within 15 - 20 minutes.

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Urticaria: Raised areas of the skin that are often red, warm, and itchy. Urticaria is also known as hives.

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Urushiol: An oil found on poison ivy, oak, and sumac.

Has allergy testing revealed that you are allergic to molds? No problem! There are some definite action steps you can take to control mold growth, and thus your mold-related symptoms:

  • Clean your house regularly, particularly the kitchen and bathroom, to prevent the growth of mold in moist areas.
  • Fix leaky plumbing.
  • Control temperature and humidity. Central air conditioning is best. Use a dehumidifier to keep the relative humidity at 35 - 50%. Use a simple humidity gauge to regularly measure the humidity level.
  • Increase ventilation. While showering or using the dishwasher, use an exhaust fan to remove water vapor from the air.
  • Thoroughly clean or remove water-damaged carpet or upholstered furniture.

Where molds hide...

If your house has a musty-smelling, stale odor, you might have a problem with mold growth. Molds often accumulate in the kitchen, bathroom, and basement, where moisture levels are higher than other parts of the house. Molds are actually microscopic fungi that produce spores. In most of the United States, the regular outdoor mold season is from spring to late fall. The season lasts longer in warmer, more humid climates. Indoor mold can grow year-round and cause perennial allergy and asthma symptoms if not properly controlled.

Aside from the damage mold growth can do to furniture and clothing, airborne mold spores can cause a range of symptoms, including a stuffed-up nose, eye irritation, wheezing, shortness of breath, and fever. Exposure to common household molds (e.g., aspergillus, fusarium) has also been implicated as the main cause of fungal sinusitis. After exposure to certain molds, people with weakened immune systems (e.g., the elderly or patients who have undergone chemotherapy) are particularly susceptible to life-threatening infection from fungus.

What molds need...

According to John Bower, President of the Healthy House Institute in Bloomington, Indiana, "For mold to grow, there are four requirements: food, air, water, and a good temperature. Since mold will eat almost anything, there is always air available, and mold likes the same temperature as people, the only way to fight it is to control moisture. The best way to deal with mold is to dry it out, clean it up, and keep it dry."

Clean your house weekly, and find the source of any musty odor. Look in the clothes hamper, refrigerator tray, humidifier basin, and garbage pail. Remove mold with a mild bleach and water solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water), a spray bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide, or other mold-removal products. Be careful using common household cleaners, as they may irritate the respiratory passages. Keep in mind that mold is very difficult to remove from carpet or upholstered furniture. Houseplants tend to grow molds and should be removed from the home if your mold allergy is severe.

Control heat and moisture

Decrease moisture inside the house. Fix any leaky plumbing that might create moisture. Pick up spills when they happen. Hang damp towels to dry. Avoid putting wet or damp clothing in the clothes hamper.

Control mold growth by simultaneously regulating the temperature and relative humidity in your home. Relative humidity is a ratio of the amount of moisture present in air compared to how much moisture that air has the potential to hold. Where you live and how humid the air is outside can affect your ability to control the relative humidity indoors. Warm air can hold more moisture than cool air. Molds grow best in a humid environment at temperatures between 77 - 86° F. Therefore keep your home as cool (65 -75° F) and dry as you can. Central air-conditioning works best, although window-unit air conditioners are effective for single rooms. Use a dehumidifier to keep the level of moisture in the house to a minimum. Use a humidity gauge to make sure the relative humidity is between 35% and 50%.

In addition to using a dehumidifier, increase ventilation to reduce indoor moisture. Everyday activities like showering, draping wet towels, or using the dishwasher can increase indoor humidity. If possible, use exhaust fans that are vented to the outdoors to remove excess water vapor. Clean or replace shower curtains once they start growing visible mold. Plastic shower curtains can be washed in the clothes washer (but don't put them in the dryer).

Replace carpeting or upholstered furniture (or any absorbent material) if it becomes moldy. Consider removing carpeting completely, especially in a humid basement. Check your home's foundation and basement for cracks that may let moisture into your home. Keep the basement clean and dry, and do not use it as a living area if moisture continues to be a problem.

Here are some products you might consider using:

  • Mildew-resistant shower curtain
  • Dehumidifier
  • Mold and mildew cleaners
  • Humidity gauge

 

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Review Date: 4/4/2007

Reviewed By: Alan Greene, M.D., F.A.A.P., Department of Pediatrics, Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine; Chief Medical Officer, A.D.A.M., Inc.


The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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