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Glossary of Commom Asthma Terms

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acceptance: agreement by patient to a treatment routine they understand
Accolate: brand name for zafirlukast, a leukotriene modifier (oral)
acute: sudden
adrenal insufficiency: inability of the body’s adrenal glands to produce an adequate amount of cortisol, the hormone needed to respond to stress
adrenaline (epinephrine): a quick relief medicine, produced by the body and available in synthetic form
adrenergic: adrenaline-like medicine
adverse: undesirable
Aerobid: brand name for flunisolide, an inhaled steroid medicine, controller
AeroChamber: brand of holding chamber
Air Watch: airflow monitoring device with electronic link to the doctor
airflow: the rate at which you can blow air out of your lungs
albuterol: generic name of Proventil and Ventolin; beta2-agonists, quick relief medicines
allergen: any substance that can induce an allergy
allergist: doctor who specializes in understanding and treating allergies
allergy: condition in which the body has an immune reaction to a substance that is normally harmless
alveoli: air sacs located at the end of the tiniest airways
ampule (ampoule): small, sealed vial containing medicine in liquid form
anaphylaxis: severe allergic reaction throughout the body which can be fatal if not treated immediately; commonly includes respiratory symptoms, itching, hives, and fainting
antibody: protein that develops in the body in response to a foreign substance (antigen)
anticholinergic: type of inhaled quick relief medicine that acts through a different mechanism than beta2-agonists
antihistamine: generic name for medicine that blocks the actions of histamine, such as swelling and itching
antiinflammatory: medicine that counteracts inflammation
asthma: inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by airways that are hyperresponsive and symptoms that can be reversed
Asthma Peak Flow Diary: an individual record of peak flow scores, medicines, asthma signs, and triggers; helps in monitoring peak flow trends in people 5 years and older
asthma signs: physical indicators of asthma that can observed by another person
Asthma Signs Diary: an individual record of asthma signs scores, medicines, and triggers that helps in monitoring the trends in asthma signs in children under 5 years of age
asthma treatment zone: a range of peak flow scores or total scores of asthma signs that calls for following a particular treatment plan
asymptomatic: without symptoms
atopic: allergic
Atrovent: brand name for ipratropium bromide, an inhaled quick relief medicine
attack: a dramatic term for an episode of asthma
Azmacort: brand name for triamcinolone, an inhaled steroid medicine, controller
beclomethasone: generic name for Vanceril, Beclovent, and Qvar, inhaled steroid medicines, controller
Beclovent: brand name for beclomethasone, an inhaled steroid medicine, controller
beta-blockers: medicines that block the action of beta-agonist medicines, and responses of the sympathetic nervous system
beta2-agonist: a class of quick relief medicine
b.i.d.: a dosing schedule calling for medicine to be taken twice a day
blood concentration: amount of a substance in a given quantity of blood expressed as weight per unit volume (e.g., mg/ml)
blow-by technique: a low-efficiency method for administering inhaled medicines
breath-activated: method for triggering the release of medicine from a device by inhalation
breathing cycle: total time it takes to breathe in and out once
breathing rate: number of breaths per minute
Brethaire: brand name for terbutaline, an inhaled beta2-agonist, quick relief medicine
Brethine: a brand name for terbutaline, an inhaled beta2-agonist, quick relief medicine
Bricanyl: a brand name for terbutaline, an inhaled beta2-agonist, quick relief medicine
bronchi: large air passages or airways
bronchiolitis: inflammation of the smallest airways (bronchioles); caused by a virus
bronchitis: inflammation of the large airways (bronchi)
bronchoconstriction: narrowing of the airways caused by contraction of the smooth muscles encircling them (same as bronchospasm)
bronchodilator: medicine that causes the airways to open
bronchospasm: narrowing of the airways caused by contraction of the smooth muscles encircling them (same as bronchoconstriction)
budesonide: generic name for Pulmicort, an inhaled steroid medicine, controller
candidiasis: yeast infection in the mouth or vagina; same as moniliasis
capillary: tiniest blood vessel
cartilage: strong, flexible tissue that supports the large airways
cc: abbreviation for cubic centimeter; equivalent to a milliliter or 1/1000 of a liter. This metric measurement is equal to 1/5 of a measuring teaspoon.
CDN: compressor driven nebulizer
CFC: chlorofluorocarbon; propellant used in most metered dose inhalers
chemical mediator: class of chemical that plays a role in the asthma reaction; includes histamine and leukotrienes
chronic: continuous or long-term
cilia: tiny hairlike projections from the surface of the cells that line the airway
closed mouth technique: a method for inhaling medicine from an MDI; open-mouth technique is preferred
compliance: doing exactly what the doctor says, whether or not you understand it
compressor: machine that produces air under pressure
compressor driven nebulizer (CDN): electric- or battery-powered device that uses compressed air to create a medicine mist
consultation: full review of a patient’s asthma history, physical exam, and other information; leads to the creation of a written asthma management plan
controlled-release: same as long-acting, sustained-release, or slow-release; applies to some theophylline and albuterol preparations
controller: medicine that prevents or reduces the frequency and severity of asthma episodes, taken daily
corticosteroid: another term for a steroid or cortisone-like medicine
coughing asthma: form of asthma in which coughing is the only symptom
cromolyn: generic name for Intal, controller medicine that prevents mast cells in the airways from releasing asthma-causing chemicals
croup: illness usually produced by a virus, in which the larynx and trachea are inflamed; produces a barking cough
dander: scales of dead skin
decongestant: a medicine that reduces congestion (swelling)
discard date: date when an MDI should be thrown away because it will no longer deliver a full puff of medicine
Diskus: brand name for dry powder inhaler device
diurnal variation: change within a day
DPI: dry powder inhaler
dry powder inhaler: device for inhaling asthma medicines in powder form; dependent on the force of inhalation to disperse medicine into the lungs
EasiVent: brand of holding chamber
eczema: a skin rash, also known as atopic dermatitis
effort monitor: part of a holding chamber which indicates the effort a person is making when inhaling medicine
electrostatic air precipitator: air cleaner
eosinophils: white blood cells involved in inflammation
ephedrine: oral adrenergic medicine, bronchodilator; no longer commonly used because of its adverse effects
epinephrine (adrenaline): a quick relief medicine, produced by the body and available in synthetic form
EpiPen: brand name for epinephrine for intramuscular use (injection); used to treat anaphylaxis
episode (flare): period of time when asthma signs or symptoms occur, peak flow scores drop, breathing is changed, or additional asthma medicine is needed
exacerbation: worsening
exercise induced asthma: a form of asthma in which exercise is the only trigger
exhale: to breathe out
expiration: act of breathing out
extended-release: medicine preparation that acts over a longer period of time than the standard preparation; also called slow-release, sustained-release
E-Z Spacer: brand of holding chamber
family practitioner: primary care physician who sees patients of all ages
FEV1: forced expiratory volume in one second. This measurement of airflow is done using a spirometer. It provides information about the status of the large and small airways
flare (episode): period of time when asthma signs or symptoms occur, peak flow scores drop, breathing is changed, or additional asthma medicine is needed
Flovent: brand name for fluticasone, an inhaled steroid medicine available in MDI or DPI, controller
flow monitor: part of a holding chamber which makes a sound if inhalation is too fast
flunisolide: generic name for Aerobid, an inhaled steroid medicine, controller
fluticasone: generic name for Flovent, an inhaled steroid medicine, controller
gastroesophageal reflux: backward flow of material from stomach to the esophagus; causes irritation which can lead to bronchospasm
green zone: asthma treatment zone in which there are no symptoms and peak flow is 80 to 100 percent of the personal best
growth retardation: slowing of rate at which height increases
Gyrocap: capsule containing Slo-Phyllin, a slow-release theophylline preparation, controller
hay fever: allergic condition of the nose and eyes brought on mainly by ragweed or other pollen
HEPA filter: abbreviation for a “high-efficiency particulate air” filter; removes tiny particles from the air
HFA propellant: hydrofluoroalkane, a propellant used in MDIs which does not destroy ozone in the stratosphere (upper atmosphere)
high yellow zone: asthma treatment zone in which there are only mild symptoms and peak flow is 65 to 80 percent of personal best
histamine: one of the chemical mediators of the asthma reaction
hives: itchy swellings of skin usually due to allergy
holding chamber: inhalation device used with a metered dose inhaler that holds the medicine mist to improve medicine effect
home care company: organization that provides many aspects of asthma care in the home, including teaching, monitoring, and review of environment and treatment
hyperresponsive: refers to airways that overreact to various asthma triggers
hyperventilation: excessive rate and depth of breathing
IAQ: indoor air quality
I/E ratio (I/O ratio): in/out ratio, or relative length of inspiration compared to expiration
IgE: immunoglobulin E, an antibody that reacts with an allergen, initiating the asthma reaction
immunotherapy: synonymous with allergy shots, injection treatment, hyposensitization, desensitization
indication: reason to use
indoor air quality (IAQ): overall healthfulness of the air inside a building
inflammation: a response of the body to physical or chemical triggers; includes swelling due to movement of cells, fluid, and chemicals into the area
inhalation device: apparatus for inhaling asthma medicine
inhaled steroid: inhaled medicine that prevents inflammation in the airways and reduces inflammation that already exists; the most commonly prescribed type of controller medicine for people with persistent asthma
inhaler: also metered dose inhaler (MDI). Device that uses propellant to create a medicine mist that can be breathed into the airways
I/O ratio (I/E ratio): in/out ratio, or relative length of inspiration compared to expiration
inspiration: act of breathing in
InspirEase: brand of holding chamber
inspiration-expiration ratio: see in/out (I/O) ratio
Intal: brand name for cromolyn, controller
intermittent flow director: a vent in the nebulizer tubing that, when covered, allows production of mist
internist: primary care physician who sees adult patients
intradermal: into the skin
intravenous: into a vein
intubation: placing a tube into the trachea to enable artificial breathing; can be a lifesaving procedure during a severe asthma episode
ipratropium: generic name for Atrovent, an anticholinergic medicine, quick relief medicine
irritant: a nonallergenic substance that may provoke a reaction in the airways
kg: kilogram; 1,000 grams or 2.2 pounds
levalbuterol: generic name for Xopenex, a beta2-agonist; quick relief medicine
leukotriene: chemical mediator involved in the asthma reaction
leukotriene modifier medicine: class of medicine that blocks the formation or action of leukotrienes in the airways, thereby blocking part of the asthma reaction, controller
liter (L): metric measurement, slightly more than a quart
liters/minute (L/min): a flow rate, applied to peak flow or oxygen delivery
long-acting: synonymous with slow-release or sustained-release when referring to a theophylline or beta2-agonist preparation
low yellow zone: asthma treatment zone in which symptoms are moderate and peak flow is 50 to 65 percent of personal best
malingering: pretending to be ill
mask: a device that fits snugly over the nose and mouth; used to help deliver inhaled asthma medicines
mast cell: one of the cell types that contain chemicals which can produce the asthma reaction
Maxair: brand name for pirbuterol, a beta2-agonist, quick relief medicine
Maxair Autohaler: brand name for an MDI with a special “breath-activated” release mechanism; contains pirbuterol (quick relief medicine)
mcg: microgram, 1/1,000,000 (one millionth) of a gram
MDI: metered dose inhaler
mean (average) peak flow score: the average peak flow score for people of a certain height, expressed in liters per minute
mediator: a chemical that is the middleman or go-between in the asthma reaction
medicine retaining valve: valve in the exit port of a holding chamber which holds medicine until a person begins to breathe in
Medrol: brand name of methylprednisolone, an oral steroid
metabolize: to change chemically or physically in the body
metered dose inhaler (MDI): device that creates medicine mist for inhalation by using propellant to expel liquid medicine
metaproterenol: generic name for beta2-agonist, quick relief medicine
methylprednisolone: generic name for Medrol, oral steroid medicine
methotrexate: immunosuppresive drug used to treat severe asthma that does not respond to usual treatment; also used to treat cancer
micron: micrometer, 1/1,000,000 (one millionth) of a meter
mg: milligram, 1/1,000 (one thousandth) of a gram
mite: tiny arachnid (spiderlike animal); skeleton and feces are found in house dust
ml: milliliter, 1/1,000 of a liter; same as a cubic centimeter (cc)
moniliasis (candidiasis): yeast infection in the mouth or vagina
monitoring: keeping track of
montelukast: generic name for Singulair, a leukotriene modifier medicine, controller
mouthpiece: part of an asthma device which is put in the mouth
mucus: protective and cleansing material produced by glands in the airways, nose, sinuses, and elsewhere in the body
nebulizer (nebulizer cup): the small plastic device that converts liquid medicine into a mist for inhalation
normal (tidal) breath: usual breathing volume when no extra effort is made
onset of action: time span from when a medicine is inhaled or swallowed until it starts to work
open mouth technique: effective method for inhaling medicine from a metered dose inhaler
osteoporosis: decrease in bone density causing increased bone fragility
ozone: a form of oxygen (O3) that is a respiratory irritant; one component of smog; see ozone layer
ozone layer: layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere which encircles the Earth, protecting the surface from harmful effects of cancer-causing ultraviolet light
palate: roof of mouth
peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR): speed at which air exits the lungs when you give your fastest blast (a fraction of a second); also known as peak flow
peak flow meter: a device used to measure peak expiratory flow rate
peak flow score: the best of three attempts blown on the peak flow meter, expressed in liters per minute

peak flow zone: one of the four treatment zones of asthma management as defined by peak flow scores
Pediapred: brand name of prednisolone, an oral steroid
pediatrician: primary care physician for children
persistent asthma: condition in which a person experiences asthma symptoms two or more times a week (when taking no asthma medicine)
personal best peak flow score: highest peak flow score that an individual has blown on two separate days when the airways are completely clear and technique is good
pirbuterol: generic name for Maxair; beta2-agonist, quick relief medicine
pollen: potent allergen shed during a plant’s flowering season
pollutant: impurity or substance that contaminates the air
post bronchodilator: airflow that occurs after inhaling a quick relief medicine
ppm: parts per million. Number of molecules of a particular substance (e.g., a pollutant) found in a million molecules of air, water, etc.
prebronchodilator: rate of airflow that occurs before inhaling a quick relief medicine
prednisone: generic name of oral steroid medicine; many brand names
prednisolone: generic name for Prelone and Pediapred; oral steroid medicine
Prelone: a brand name for prednisolone, an oral steroid
prick test: type of skin test for allergy
Proventil HFA: brand name for albuterol; beta2-agonist, quick relief medicine with non-CFC propellant in the MDI; beta2-agonist, quick relief medicine
Proventil Repetabs: brand name for long-acting albuterol preparation; oral
puffer: another word for inhaler or MDI
Pulmicort Turbuhaler: brand name for a dry powder inhaler containing budesonide; inhaled steroid, controller
pulmonary function test: a test or series of tests used to measure various aspects of lung function and capacity
pulmonologist: doctor specializing in the care of people with lung diseases
q.i.d.: four times per day dosing schedule
quick relief medicine: inhaled medicine that acts to open constricted airways within minutes (e.g., inhaled beta2-agonists)
QVAR: brand name for beclomethasone, an inhaled steroid medicine; controller
RAST: radioimmunosorbent test, an allergy test that measures IgE (antibody) to a specific antigen
RAD: abbreviation for reactive airway disease, a name for asthma
red zone: asthma treatment zone in which symptoms are severe and peak flow is less than 50 percent of personal best; requires immediate treatment
relative humidity: amount of water in the air compared to the total amount of water the air can hold at a given temperature
rescue medicine: quick relief medicine
respiratory therapist: health professional who provides assessment, treatment, and education for people with lung disease
respirable range: size of particles that can be inhaled into the small airways (1 to 5 microns in diameter)
retraction:“sucking in” of the skin between the ribs or above and below the breast bone
ROAD: reversible obstructive airway disease, a term that is sometimes used to describe the asthma condition
runout time: length of time it takes for the effect of a medicine to disappear after the last dose; may be minutes, hours, or days
salmeterol: generic name for Serevent; inhaled long-acting beta2-agonist, controller
sensitization: process of becoming sensitized to an allergen
sensitizer: allergen or irritant that primes the asthma reaction
Serevent: brand name for salmeterol, controller
serum: the liquid portion of the blood
serum level: the amount of medicine in a quantity of serum
shake test: shaking the MDI canister, an unreliable method for determining whether the MDI can deliver a full puff of medicine
side effect: undesired or adverse effect of medicine
sign: an effect that can be seen or heard by an observer
Singulair: brand name for montelukast, a leukotriene modifier medicine, controller
sinuses: one of the eight bone-enclosed cavities surrounding the nose
sinusitis: inflammation of one or more paranasal (around the nose) sinuses
small airways: airways less than 2 mm in diameter; bronchioles
Space Chamber: brand of holding chamber
spacer: device used with an MDI to improve effectiveness; also known as “holding chamber” or “extender”
Spinhaler: brand name for dry-powder device containing cromolyn; controller medicine; no longer available in the U.S.
spirometer: device used in a doctor’s office to measure various components of airflow
spirometry: the act of using a spirometer
step down: method for bringing asthma under control quickly, then gradually decreasing medicines to the lowest effective dose
steroid burst: a short treatment with oral steroids, usually lasting for seven days or less
steroid: type of hormone produced by the adrenal cortex which has antiinflammatory effects. Also, medicine similar to this hormone that is given by inhalation or orally to help control asthma
subcutaneous: under the skin
sustained-release: synonymous with long-acting or extended-release; refers to theophylline and beta2-agonist preparations
sympathomimetic: produces the same effect as epinephrine injection or stimulation of sympathetic nervous system
symptom: any effect on your body that you can feel that is different from usual; for example, a tight chest or shortness of breath
terbutaline: generic name for Brethaire, Brethine, Bricanyl; beta2-agonist, quick relief medicine
Theo-24: brand name for a long-acting theophylline preparation, controller, oral
Theo-Dur: brand name for a long-acting theophylline preparation, controller, oral
theophylline: slow-acting brochodilator medicine; controller, oral
tidal breathing: normal, relaxed breathing
toxicity: quality of being poisonous; the adverse effect(s) of a medicine
triamcinolone: generic name for Azmacort, inhaled steroid preparation (controller)
trigger: instigator; precipitating factor in causing airway inflammation and asthma symptoms
twitchy: overreactive, hyperresponsive; used in reference to airways
ultrasonic: sound waves above the range that humans can hear; can cause a medicine solution to turn into a mist
ultrasonic nebulizer: device that uses sound waves to create medicine mist; usually small, light, and portable. It should not be used to deliver a suspension, such as Pulmicort.
unit dose: medicine in liquid or pill form that is packaged in individual doses
Uni-Dur: brand name for a long-acting theophylline preparation, controller, oral
Uni-Phyl: brand name for a long-acting theophylline preparation, controller, oral
USN: ultrasonic nebulizer
valve: device that regulates the flow of air or other substance
Vanceril: brand name for beclomethasone; an inhaled steroid medicine, controller
vent: tube that can be uncovered to interrupt the flow of air into a compressor driven nebulizer cup
Ventolin: brand name for albuterol, a beta2-agonist, quick relief medicine
voice box: larynx, part of the upper airways which lies between the throat and the trachea
wheeze: high-pitched whistling that occurs when air flows through narrowed airways
white blood cells: cells whose main function is to defend the body from bacteria and allergens
Windmill Trainer: a feedback device for people who use a MiniWright peak flow meter to improve their ability to blow peak flow
workup: evaluation of a patient
Xopenex: brand name for levalbuterol, a beta2-agonist, quick relief medicine
zafirlukast: generic name for Accolate, a leukotriene modifier; controller
zone borders: limits of the asthma treatment zones as defined by peak flow or total score of asthma signs
zileuton: generic name for Zyflo, a leukotriene modifier medicine; controller
Zyflo: brand name for the zileuton, a leukotriene modifier medicine; controller

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