APPENDIX B: Glossary
Albuterol The generic name of a quick-relief asthma medication (also see beta2-agonist).
Allergic asthma Asthma accompanied by allergies. Reactions such as wheezing and coughing are triggered by such allergens as mold spores, animal dander, or contents found in household dust. (Also known as atopic or extrinsic asthma.)
Allergic rhinitis Often called “hay fever,” allergic rhinitis can be caused by outdoor allergens (pollens, molds) and indoor allergens (animal dander, indoor molds, dust mites). Ongoing research has cited evidence that allergic rhinitis and asthma are linked — suggesting the idea of “one airway, one disease.”
Allergen A substance that triggers an allergic reaction. These include dust mites, animal dander, mold, and cockroaches.
Allergist A physician with special training in allergies.
Alveoli Tiny air sacs where oxygen is transferred into your lungs and carbon dioxide waste enters the airways in order to be exhaled out.
Asthma A chronic, inflammatory disorder of the airways characterized by symptoms such as wheezing, breathing difficulties, coughing, and chest tightness. People with asthma have very sensitive airways that are constantly on the verge of overreacting to asthma triggers.
Asthma action plan A written plan that tells people with asthma, or those who care for them, how to take care of asthma symptoms. This includes how to prevent symptoms, and what to do if symptoms are severe. This plan should be developed together with a health care provider and family members. When used properly, the plan can help people control their asthma.
Atopic asthma Asthma that is triggered by allergens. (Also see allergic asthma.)
Beta2-agonists Asthma drugs that relax the muscles around the bronchial tubes. Two types are used: The long-acting type is taken every day to prevent symptoms, often in combination with a steroid. The short-acting type is used for quick relief of symptoms.
Bronchial tubes Airways in the lungs. One major branch going into each lung.
Bronchioles Smallest airways in the lungs.
Bronchoconstriction When the muscles encircling the airways constrict tighter and tighter, pinching the airways closed.
Bronchodilators Drugs that relax the muscles around the airways, thus opening the airways up. Some bronchodilators are used for quick relief of symptoms during an asthma attack. Others are taken every day to prevent symptoms.
Controllers Anti-inflammatory medication used by individuals with asthma to control asthma symptoms and keep airways open.
Corticosteroids Used for long-term daily control of asthma to prevent inflammation. They are most frequently inhaled by using a metered-dose inhaler, dry powder inhaler, or nebulizer. Oral corticosteroids are primarily used for short-term treatment and to slow inflammation that could lead to an asthma flare-up.
Cromolyn An anti-inflammatory drug that may be used on a daily basis to prevent symptoms of asthma.
Cough-variant asthma Also called hidden asthma, where the only symptom of asthma is coughing. It possibly may represent early stages of persistent asthma.
Dry powder inhaler A small device similar to a metered-dose inhaler, but where the drug is in powder form.
Exercise-induced asthma Asthma that occurs during or following vigorous activity.
Forced expiratory volume (FEV) Measures of how much air can be emptied from lungs.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) A major asthma trigger. Occurs when stomach acid and undigested food wash back into the esophagus, causing airways to contract. (Also called acid reflux disease, or heartburn.)
Immunoglobulin E (IgE) An antibody that is part of the immune system that reacts against allergens.
Immunotherapy A process of injecting shots containing an allergen to help build up the immune system's tolerance to that allergen.
Inhaled corticosteroids Daily anti-inflammatory medication that is available in metered-dose inhaler, dry powder inhaler, or nebulizer forms.
Leukotriene modifiers Control drugs used orally for patients with mild to moderate persistent asthma. For mild asthma, they are sometimes used as an alternative to inhaled steroids; for moderate asthma, they may be used as a supplement to inhaled steroids in place of long-acting beta2-agonists.
Metered-dose inhaler (MDI) Device that lets individual with asthma inhale a specific amount of medicine (a “metered dose”).
Mold An indoor and outdoor trigger for asthma.
Nebulizer A device that creates a mist out of an asthma drug, which makes it easier to breathe the drug into the lungs.
Nedocromil sodium An inhaled medication that may be used on a daily basis to treat inflammation in the airways and prevent asthma attacks.
Nocturnal asthma Asthma symptoms often occurring at night that can cause awakening from sleep.
Non-allergic asthma Asthma not caused by allergens. It can include irritants that aggravate the nose, throat, or airways. These irritants include cigarette smoke, strong odors or smells, wood smoke, household cleaners, or environmental pollutants. (Also referred to as nonallergic, non-atopic, or instrinsic asthma.)
Peak flow A measurement (using a peak flow meter) of how well air can be blown out of the lungs. It can show if airways are open normally or if they are closing.
Peak flow meter A hand-held device used to determine peak flow of lungs.
Pollen Allergen that can trigger allergy or asthma symptoms.
Rescue drug A quick-relief medication that works quickly to address asthma symptoms.
Sensitization When the body's immune system identifies an allergen as an invader, it produces antibodies against it that begins an allergic reaction.
Sinusitis Inflammation or infection of one or more sinuses, which are located behind the nose and eyes.
Spacer Tube that connects with metered-dose inhaler to help deliver medication (also called a holding chamber).
Spirometry Instrument used to diagnose asthma in children generally older than five years. It measures the maximum volume an individual can exhale after taking in a breath.
Theophylline A drug sometimes used to help control mild asthma, especially to prevent nighttime symptoms.
Trigger That which can cause asthma symptoms to flare up. Can include allergens, irritants such as tobacco smoke or air pollutants, exercise, medications, or respiratory tract infections.
Vocal cord dysfunction A disorder in which vocal cords do not open as fully as they should when breathing. Sometimes the symptoms may be misidentified as exercise-induced asthma.