Glossary Glossary Glossary

Glossary

What kind of doctor is an allergist?

An Allergist/Clinical Immunologist is a physician with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic and immunologic diseases. Generally, allergists are also trained in pediatrics or internal medicine so they have the capability of a primary care physician.

The Allergist will conduct a personalized study of the patient. This may include a thorough history of the illness, family history, evaluation of the home and work (school) environment, allergy testing, and possibly other laboratory tests.

This is a lengthy, individualized process.

Allergen:

any substance that causes an immune response leading to allergic symptoms. Possible common allergens include pollen and dust mites.

Allergic Reaction:

a chain reaction that occurs in the body and includes three steps: sensitization, activation of mast cells and prolonged immune activity.

Allergic Rhinitis:

an allergic response that affects the mucous membranes of the nose and upper air passages causing runny nose, congestion, sneezing and scratchy throat. Allergic rhinitis that occurs seasonally is often referred to as “hay fever.”

Allergy Shots:

see immunotherapy.

Antibody:

proteins that are made by the body in response to an antigen. Antibodies act specifically against the antigen (idlergen) that provoked their production.

Antigen:

a substance that reacts with antibodies. In an allergic individual the antigen is called an allergen and includes pollen and dust mites.

Antihistamine:

a drug that inhibits the action of histamines, which are released during the allergic reaction. Histamines smooth muscles and dilate capillaries causing allergic symptoms.

Avoidance:

a method for reducing allergy symptoms by reducing the contact with the allergen.

Cilia:

hairlike projections in the mucous membrane of the nose and bronchial tubes that help move mucus and keep nasal passages clear.

CT Scan:

computerized tomography is a type of X-ray that uses a computer to interpret and display images.

Dander:

small scales that are shed from the fur, hair, or feathers of animals and may be the cause of allergy in sensitive individuals.

Decongestant:

a drug that narrows blood vessels and clears nasal conges­tion; can cause elevation in blood pressure and nervousness.

Eosinophil:

a type of cell that is often found in nasal mucus that identifies allergy.

Hay fever:

see allergic rhinitis.

Histamine:

a substance released by mast cells during the allergic reaction. This substance causes many of the symptoms of allergies.

IgE:

the antibody, which is formed in response to pollens, dust mites, grass and other allergens.

Immune system:

the body’s defense system that protects against infections.

Immunotherapy:

commonly known as allergy shots or desensitization therapy. An extract of the allergen is injected just below the skin in gradually increasing doses to allow the immune system to build up a natural immunity to the allergen.

Inflammation:

a localized protective response by the body, which results in symptoms including: heat, redness, and swelling.

Inherit:

to receive genetic material from parents. Genetic material determines numerous physical characteristics of the body such as eye and hair color.

Mast cells:

a type of cell present in large numbers in the nasal membranes and lungs. Activation of these cells by an allergic antibody causes the release of several substances, including histamine and heparin that lead to symptoms which include runny nose, itching, congestion, and mucus production.

Mold:

microorganism (fungus) that grows in humid and damp conditions and can take the form of spores which drift the air. These fungi act as the allergens for millions of individuals with allergic rhinitis.

Pollen:

a fine powdery substance produced by plants. Pollen drifts in the air and acts as an allergen in many allergic individuals.

RAST:

Radioallergosorbent Test. The patient’s blood is mixed with a possible allergen in a test tube. Addition of a radioactive antibody to human antibodies shows whether the allergen can cause an allergic response in the patient.

Sinusitis:

an inflammation of the sinus cavities that is usually caused by bacteria.