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Allergies and Kids – Smart Allergy Mom Toolkit Glossary

This list of seasonal and indoor allergy terms can help you understand the conversations you and your doctor may have about your child’s allergies.

A

Allergen

An allergen is defined as a benign substance that your body perceives as foreign and harmful. It initiates the allergic reaction in your child.

Allergic rhinitis

See hay fever.

Allergist

An allergist/immunologist (commonly referred to as an allergist) is a physician specially trained to diagnose, treat and manage allergies, asthma, and immunologic disorders, including primary immunodeficiency disorders. These conditions range from the very common to the very rare, spanning all ages and encompassing various organ systems.

Allergy

An “allergy” is an exaggerated reaction of your immune system to otherwise harmless substances (allergens such as pet dander, pollen, dust mites, and mold).

Allergy eye

Symptoms can include irritated, red, itchy, or watery eyes.

Allergic shiners

Dark, swollen bags under the eyes, possibly caused by nasal congestion.

Allergic salute

Frequent upward rubbing of the nose that can last more than 2 weeks. This rubbing can lead to an "allergic crease" or line at the bridge of the nose.

Antibodies

Specialized proteins produced by white blood cells that circulate in the blood. Antibodies seek and attach to foreign proteins, microorganisms, or toxins in order to neutralize them. They are part of the immune system.

Antigen

A substance, usually a protein, which the body perceives as foreign.

Antihistamine

Medication that relieves the allergy symptoms of sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, itchy throat or runny nose by blocking histamine receptors.

C

Common cold

The common cold is a viral infection of your upper respiratory tract—your nose and throat.

D

Dander, animal

Tiny scales shed from animal skin and trap on animal fur or hair. Dander float in the air, settle on surfaces and make up much of household dust. Cat dander is a classic cause of allergic reactions.

Dust mites

A common trigger for indoor allergies. They are microscopic mites that live in the fibers of pillows, mattresses, blankets and carpet. They consume our dead skin cells. Inhalation of their droppings can cause allergic reactions such as nasal congestion.

H

HEPA

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter that removes particles in the air by forcing it through screens containing microscopic pores.

Hay fever

Allergic reaction caused by the pollen of ragweed, grasses, and trees whose pollen is spread by the wind.

Histamine

A naturally occurring substance that is released by the immune system after being exposed to an allergen. When you inhale an allergen, mast cells located in the nose and sinus membranes release histamine. Histamine then attaches to receptors on nearby blood vessels, causing them to enlarge (dilate). Histamine also binds to other receptors located in nasal tissues, causing redness, swelling, itching and runny nose.

Hives

Also known as urticaria, this is an outbreak of swollen, pale red bumps, patches, or welts on the skin that appear suddenly—either as a result of allergies, or for other reasons.

Hypoallergenic

Hypoallergenic is the characteristic of provoking fewer allergic reactions in allergy sufferers. That can mean a decreased tendency to cause allergies, however, it does not imply a complete elimination of allergy symptoms.

I

Immune system

The body's defense system that protects us against infections and foreign substances.

Indoor allergies

A condition characterized by an overreaction of the immune system to certain proteins found inside, such as mold spores, pet dander, cockroach or dust mite droppings, etc. (also called "perennial allergies").

M

Mold

Parasitic, microscopic fungi (like Alternaria) that can float in the air like pollen. Mold is a common trigger for allergies and can be found in damp areas, such as the basement or bathroom, as well as in the outdoor environment in grass, leaf piles, hay, mulch, or under mushrooms.

Mold count

See pollen and mold counts.

N

Nasal decongestant

Medication that shrinks swollen nasal tissues to relieve symptoms of nasal swelling, congestion, and mucus secretion.

O

Outdoor allergies

A condition characterized by an overreaction of the immune system to certain proteins found outside, such as tree, grass, or weed pollens, mold spores, stinging insects, plants, etc. (also called "hay fever," "nasal allergies," or "seasonal allergies").

P

Pollen

A fine, powdery substance released into the air by trees, grasses, and weeds.

Pollen and mold counts

A measure of the amount of allergens in the air. The counts are usually reported for mold spores and 3 types of pollen: grasses, trees, and weeds. The count is reported as grains per cubic meter of air and is translated into a corresponding level: absent, low, medium, or high.

R

Rhinitis

An inflammation and swelling of the mucous membrane of the nose, characterized by a runny nose and stuffiness and usually caused by the common cold or an allergy.

U

Urticaria (hives)

Also known as hives, this is an outbreak of swollen, pale red bumps, patches, or welts on the skin that appear suddenly—either as a result of allergies, or for other reasons.

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