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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.

If you have allergies, you may find that they affect your body in different ways. Allergy-related conditions generally involve the head (eyes, nose, mouth, throat, and ears), the lungs, GI tract, or the skin, all of which are involved in the body's frontline of defending itself from foreign substances. Different allergy-related conditions may occur together because they involve shared passageways in the upper respiratory tract. Also, people with allergies are more likely to have more than one of these conditions because of their hypersensitive immune systems.

Allergic rhinitis


Allergic rhinitis, commonly referred to as "hay fever," affects 40 million people annually in United States. The term "rhinitis" means inflammation of the lining of the nose. Common symptoms include stuffy and runny nose, itching, and sneezing. (There are other potential causes of these symptoms unrelated to allergies, like the common cold.) Allergic rhinitis can be seasonal or year-round, depending on what you are allergic to. Read more about allergic rhinitis.

Asthma


Asthma is a chronic lung disease where the airways narrow, resulting in coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or chest tightness. Pollen and other allergens can trigger asthma. Asthma causes the bronchial tubes and bronchioles (small branches of the lungs) to constrict, making it difficult to breathe. Read more about asthma.

Sinusitis


"Sinusitis" refers to inflammation of the nasal sinus cavities, which are hollow spaces in the bones of the skull located behind the nose and eyebrows. Sinusitis can be acute or chronic and is often caused by infection, allergic inflammation, nasals polyps, or bone structure abnormalities. Symptoms may include facial pain, headache, stuffy and runny nose, discolored mucus (yellow or green), cough, diminished sense of smell, bad breath, fever, or pressure in the ears. Read more about sinusitis.

Ear infections and otitis media


The term "otitis media" means inflammation of the middle ear, often due to colds or allergies. The inflammation often leads to ear infections. Early signs are ear pain and discomfort. Children may have trouble sleeping, lose their appetite, or show signs of irritability. Otitis media occurs most often among infants and young children because their inner ears are less developed and at an angle where bacteria and other irritants can easily enter through the throat. Read more about otitis media.

Conjunctivitis


Conjunctivitis, commonly referred to as "pink eye," is an inflammation of the lining of the eye. Symptoms include red, itchy, and tearing eyes. Conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies or infection. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis is common and usually occurs with allergic rhinitis. Like the nose, the eye is easily irritated by airborne allergens in the environment. Read more about conjunctivitis.

Dermatitis


Dermatitis is inflammation of the skin. There are several types of dermatitis that are allergy-related, including atopic dermatitis (also called "eczema") and contact dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis usually appears in the first few years of life as a recurring itchy rash. Contact dermatitis appears as an intensely itchy, red, and blistery rash after contact with an allergen, like poison ivy.

Hives


Hives, also called urticaria, appear as red, itchy, raised welts on the skin. Acute urticaria is often an allergic reaction to food or drugs and often lasts only a few days. Acute urticaria affects 10 - 20% of people at least once in their life. Chronic urticaria can last longer than 6 months, and the cause is often unknown. Read more about hives.

Anaphylaxis


Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate emergency medical treatment. Anaphylaxis is an immediate immune system reaction during which histamine and other chemicals are released all over the body. If not treated right away, anaphylaxis may cause shock or death. The most common allergens that cause this type of reaction include insect sting venom, peanuts, and shellfish. Read more about anaphylaxis.

Early signs of anaphylaxis include tingling in the lips, feet, or hands, flushing, tightness in the throat and chest, and difficulty breathing.

 

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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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