Glossary of Allergy Terms
A substance which can cause an allergic reaction.
A series of injections (shots) or sublingual drops are administered which contain the allergen such as bee venom, pollen, dust mite or animal dander to which the patient is allergic. At first the amount given is a low dose, then the amount is increased at regular intervals, over a period of 3-5 years. Allergen immunotherapy alters the way in which the immune system reacts to allergens, by switching off allergy.
When the itchy, runny or blocked nose is being wiped in an upwards direction. This movement helps to open up the nasal airways.
A crease or pale line that develops across the lower part of the nose as a consequence of frequent upward wiping of the nose.
An adverse reaction involving the immune system which is caused by inhaling, swallowing or touching a substance to which a person is sensitive. It can also follow injections of medicines, insect stings or insect bites.
An inflammation of the lining of the nose caused by inhaling an allergen such as dust mite, pollens or animal dander and also by eating certain foods. Symptoms may include itching, sneezing, blocked nose, runny nose and itchy/watery eyes. Allergic Rhinitis is often referred to as hay fever.
Dark rings under the eyes caused by allergy. Bags under the eyes can also be caused by swelling of the tissues, thus reducing circulation and drainage.
A swelling of the deeper layers of the skin, usually occurring in soft tissues such as the eyes, lips, tongue and groin area.
An irritating or harmful immune system response to a foreign substance that is harmless to most people.
An inflammation of the skin which is reddened, swollen, itchy and often weeping (also known as atopic eczema).
This is the most severe type of allergic reaction involving many organs of the body such as:
- the skin - welts and hives (urticaria)
- the upper airways - swelling of the throat and vocal cords leading to obstruction in breathing.
- the nose - sneezing, blocking, watering, runny nose.
- the lung - wheezing and asthma.
- the circulatory system - a fall in blood pressure and collapse.
If untreated anaphylaxis may cause death. It is usually caused by foods, medicines or insects which a person has developed an allergy to.
Substances produced by the body to protect itself against infection. Immunoglobulin E antibodies are produced by the body in an allergic reaction.
Medications which block the action of histamine. Non-sedating antihistamines relieve allergy symptoms are readily available from pharmacies.
An allergic inflammation of the airways producing swelling, narrowing and the build up of mucus within the airway, leading to difficulty in breathing.
Medications commonly used in the treatment of high blood pressure, heart beat irregularities, migraine, overactive thyroid and glaucoma.
Medication which relaxes airway muscles and widens the air passages.
An inflammation of the bronchi (large airway passages) caused by infection.
A high pitched musical wheezing sound when breathing in or out. May be due to a number of causes, most commonly asthma. It cannot always be heard without a stethoscope.
Small hair-like structures that line the airways and help remove the thin film of mucus which has trapped unwanted particles.
Spasm of the colon.
An inflammation of the skin (blistered red, itchy and often weeping) which is usually caused by contact with chemicals found in cosmetics, perfume, jewellery and clothing as well as some plants.
Usually referred to as allergy shots or allergen immunotherapy (see allergen immunotherapy).
A small mite invisible to the naked eye. Widely distributed in homes. It is a major cause of asthma & allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
An inflammation of the skin causing reddening, itching, swelling and weeping (also known as atopic dermatitis).
Cells that circulate in the blood. They attack tissues at the site of an allergic reaction causing damage.
An adverse reaction by the body to ingested foods or chemicals not involving the immune system.
An adverse reaction to specific foods such as peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, egg, and milk that involves the immune system.
Another term for food allergy.
Structures which release hormones into the body, for example the thyroid or adrenal gland. The name is also loosely and incorrectly applied to lymph nodes which are part of the body's defence system.
Sneezing watery discharge and itching of the nose and eyes caused by pollen of grasses and other plants, usually occurring in spring (also known as allergic rhinitis).
A substance occurring in mast cells in the body. In an allergic reaction it is one of the substances released which causes itching, sneezing, wheezing and runny nose and eyes.
Hives (see urticaria)
Immunotherapy (see allergen immunotherapy)
Immunoglobulin (see antibodies)
Is a defence reaction of tissues against invasion by foreign substances, which results in redness and swelling. In asthma, the inflammation is not defensive but destroys the tissues.
Latex or natural rubber is the substance obtained from the sap of the Hevea brasiliensis tree.
Specialised cells that lie just beneath the surface of the skin and the lining of the nose. They contain histamine and other substances which cause allergy symptoms.
The space between the ear drum and the inner ear. Infection causes acute pain and hearing loss (also known as otitis media).
Mould or Fungus
Found everywhere in the environment especially associated with rotting vegetable matter. Because many fungi multiply by releasing millions of spores into the air they may cause allergy if inhaled.
A clear film of sticky liquid on the surface of the lining of the nose and lungs.
Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Medications which reduce pain and inflammation.
Allergens encountered in the course of a person's work. Examples are western red cedar which may cause asthma in sawmillers and carpenters; animal dander in veterinarians and laboratory workers; latex in health care professionals.
A condition where muscles at the lower end of the oesophagus (the tube which leads from the mouth to the stomach) does not function properly and allows acid stomach contents to move upwards back into the oesophagus, causing a painful burning sensation.
Infection of the middle ear.
Perennial Allergic Rhinitis
Allergic symptoms occurring throughout the year, usually caused by allergens such as dust mite, animal dander and mould (see allergic rhinitis).
The pollen grain is a tiny particle carried by insects or wind to fertilise the female flower. Breathing in pollen causes allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and asthma in some people.
RAST (RadioAllergoSorbent Test)
A blood test for allergen specific Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies which identifies reactions to specific allergens such as dust mite, pollen, animal dander, moulds, foods and some insect venoms- also referred to as allergen specific IgE tests.
Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis (see Hay Fever)
Skin Prick Test
A test to identify reactions to allergens. A positive test is one where a raised itchy lump (wheal) surrounded by a flat red area (flare) develops within 15-20 minutes.
Inflammation of the sinuses which are air cavities connected to the nasal passages. If the lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed and infected, the condition is called sinusitis.
A shortened word for corticosteroids (and not to be confused with body building steroids). They are a group of medications used to prevent or suppress the symptoms of severe inflammation due to any cause, and prevent the tissue damage that may otherwise result.
A daily record of the symptoms a person suffers.
The medical word for hives, which are itchy, raised lumps that can vary in position from hour to hour or day to day.
A raised whitish itchy lump which occurs after skin prick test or after contact with an allergen and is a term also used to describe the individual lump seen in hives.
© ASCIA 2010
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) is the peak professional body of Clinical Immunologists and Allergists in Australia and New Zealand.
Postal address: PO Box 450 Balgowlah, NSW Australia 2093
This document has been developed and peer reviewed by ASCIA members and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner. The development of this document is not funded by any commercial sources and is not influenced by commercial organisations.
Content last updated June 2010