Asthma Center > Words to Know

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  • Definition: Airway Obstruction
    When we breathe, air passes through our airways (the tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs) to get to our lungs.
  • Definition: Allergen
    An allergen is a substance that's capable of producing an allergic reaction.
  • Definition: Allergy-Triggered Asthma
    Allergy-triggered asthma is a type of asthma commonly seen in children.
  • Definition: Animal Dander
    All warm-blooded animals shed tiny flakes from their skin, fur, or feathers called dander (it's like dandruff in humans, but it's much harder to see).
  • Definition: Asthma
    Asthma is a chronic lung disorder that causes airways (the tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs) to become inflamed, which means that they swell and produce lots of thick mucus.
  • Definition: Asthma Action Plan
    An asthma action plan is a set of individualized written instructions, designed with a doctor, that detail how a person with asthma should manage his or her asthma at home.
  • Definition: Asthma Flare-Up
    When symptoms of asthma, such as wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath, become more severe, more frequent, or both, it's known as an asthma flare-up.
  • Definition: Bronchial Tubes
    When a person breathes, air taken in through the nose or mouth then goes into the trachea (windpipe). From there, it passes through the bronchial tubes, into the lungs, and finally back out again. People with asthma have bronchial tubes that are inflamed.
  • Definition: Bronchoconstriction
    Along with inflammation of the airways, bronchoconstriction leads to symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
  • Definition: Bronchodilator
    Bronchodilators are medications commonly used by people with asthma.
  • Definition: Corticosteroids
    Corticosteroids are medications commonly used by people with asthma.
  • Definition: Cough
    Cough is a common symptom in people who have asthma, although it can occur for many other reasons.
  • Definition: Dust Mites
    Dust mites are microscopic bugs that live in household dust.
  • Definition: Exercise-Induced Asthma
    Some people have exercise-induced asthma, which means that their asthma symptoms (such as coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath) are triggered by exercise or physical activity.
  • Definition: Histamine
    Histamine - a chemical found in some of the body's cells - causes many of the symptoms of allergies, such as a runny nose or sneezing.
  • Definition: Immunoglobulin (IgE)
    Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is a type of protein in the body called an antibody.
  • Definition: Immunotherapy
    Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is a form of treatment used for certain allergies.
  • Definition: Inhaler
    Inhalers are portable handheld devices that deliver medication - in a form that the person breathes in - directly to the lungs, unlike a pill or liquid that's swallowed.
  • Definition: Long-Term Control Medicines
    Many people with asthma need to take medicine every day to control their asthma and prevent symptoms.
  • Definition: Lung Function Tests
    Lung (or pulmonary) function tests are a variety of tests that measure how well a person breathes.
  • Definition: Nebulizer
    A nebulizer is an electrically powered machine that turns liquid medication into a mist so that it can be breathed directly into the lungs through a face mask or mouthpiece.
  • Definition: Peak Flow Meter
    A peak flow meter is a portable handheld device used to measure how well a person can blow air out of the lungs.
  • Definition: Pollen
    Pollen is a fine powder produced by certain plants when they reproduce.
  • Definition: Quick-Relief Medicines
    Quick-relief medicines are used by people with asthma to relieve asthma symptoms or to treat an asthma flare-up.
  • Definition: Retractions
    Retractions are a sign that someone is working hard to breathe.
  • Definition: Spacer
    People with asthma often use inhalers (also called puffers) to take their medications. A spacer (also sometimes called a holding chamber) is a device that makes using an inhaler easier and more effective.
  • Definition: Spirometer
    A spirometer is an instrument that measures how well your child's lungs are working.
  • Definition: Sulfites
    Sulfites are a kind of food preservative that can cause breathing difficulties in some people with asthma.
  • Definition: Triggers
    During normal breathing, the airways to the lungs are fully open, allowing air to easily move in and out. In a person with asthma, the airways are inflamed and overly sensitive to certain things that wouldn't usually bother others. These are called triggers.
  • Definition: Wheezing
    A wheeze is a high-pitched whistling sound made when air flows through narrowed airways in the lungs, usually when people breathe out.

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