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Glossary

Glossary Allergy TherapeuticsOur Glossary of terms is provided to help you learn a little more about the allergy field. If you feel that terms may need an explanation and are not included in this list please do not hesitate to Contact Us

  1. Adjuvant
  2. Adrenaline
  3. Allergen
  4. Allergy
  5. Anaphylaxis
  6. Antibody/Antibodies
  7. Antigen
  8. Antihistamines
  9. Asthma
  10. Contact dermatitis
  11. Corticosteroid drugs
  12. Desensitisation therapy
  13. Diagnostic allergy tests
  14. Eczema
  15. Hay fever
  16. Histamine
  17. IgE
  18. IgG
  19. Immunotherapy
  20. Intolerance
  21. MPL®
  22. Oral allergy vaccines
  23. Provocation test
  24. Rhinitis
  25. Skin prick test
  26. T-helper cells

 

  1. Adjuvant

    An inactive substance incorporated in modern vaccines which stimulates recognition of the active components to give an improved immune response.
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  2. Adrenaline

    Also known as epinephrine this hormone raises the heart rate and constricts blood vessels. Adrenaline is chemically synthesised and used medically as the drug of choice to reverse anaphylaxis.
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  3. Allergen

    Allergens are proteins which trigger the immune system of an allergic person to produce unwanted symptoms. Examples include grass and tree pollens, house-dust mites and foods such as shellfish and cow's milk.
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  4. Allergy

    Exaggerated or inappropriate reactions of the immune system, medically described as hypersensitivity to specific substances.
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  5. Anaphylaxis

    Also known as anaphylactic shock, this is the most acute reaction to an allergen, resulting from a widespread release of histamine and other biologically active substances which in turn cause breathing difficulties, reduced blood pressure and eventual heart failure. Anaphylaxis is often associated with injected allergens, such as bee/wasp stings or penicillin injections. However, anaphylaxis is a relatively rare reaction, which is rapidly reversed by treatment with adrenaline.
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  6. Antibody/Antibodies

    Also known as immunoglobulins (Ig),  these are proteins found in the blood, which are part of the body's defence system, that recognise a foreign substance (termed an antigen) and then reacts with it. Immunoglobulins are divided into groups A, D, E, G, M. Allergies are most often due to an excessive immunoglobulin E (IgE) response.
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  7. Antigen

    A substance which triggers an immune response as part of the body's protection against foreign substances or organisms.
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  8. Antihistamines

    Antihistamines comprise a group of chemical agents which block the effects of histamine. Histamine is released by mast cells in the body as a response to an allergic reaction.
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  9. Asthma

    A chronic, inflammatory lung disease characterised by breathing difficulties. Acute episodes occur ('asthma attacks') from an impairment in breathing caused by a severe narrowing of airways (bronchi). The episodes may be triggered by a number of factors - such as infection, exercise and cold air- but allergens are now recognised as a major contributor to this condition in many cases.
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  10. Contact dermatitis

    A rash or inflammation of the skin caused by repeated direct contact with a substance. Examples include: detergent residues on clothes, nickel (watch straps and bracelets), rubber gloves and some cosmetics.
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  11. Corticosteroid drugs

    Synthetic hormones also known as steroids; glucocorticosteroids are a subdivision of a group of drugs which exert an anti-inflammatory action by generalised suppression of the immune system. An essentially palliative treatment used for many inflammatory or allergic conditions. Side-effects can be troublesome.
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  12. Desensitisation therapy

    See Immunotherapy.
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  13. Diagnostic allergy tests

    The two most frequently used allergy diagnosis tests are the skin prick test and the specific Immunoglobulin E (IgE) blood test. In the skin prick test, a drop of a suspect allergen extract is placed on the patient's arm and a lancet is used to gently prick the skin below. An itchy swelling and reddening of the skin after 10-15 minutes indicates a positive result. The blood test evaluates reactivity of circulating IgE to a specific allergen (e.g. RAST, AlaSTAT methods). Other methods employed are the skin patch test and the provocation test.
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  14. Eczema

    An inflammation of the skin that causes itching, a red rash and small blisters that weep and become encrusted. There are several types of eczema, with an allergic form known as atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis. This is often prevalent in babies and young children.
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  15. Hay fever

    Also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis. Symptoms are: sneezing, itching, runny nose and nasal congestion. Pollens are the most prevalent seasonal allergens (e.g. tree pollens, early Spring, or grass pollens, Summer).
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  16. Histamine

    A highly active natural chemical released from the mast cells as a result of an allergic reaction, and a major contributor to the symptoms of allergy.
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  17. IgE

    The abbreviation of immunoglobulin E. Most allergic patients have excessive levels of this antibody which is induced to certain allergens they contact. Following an initial sensitisation period, IgE - specifically recognising an allergen - is made in the body and attaches to the mast cells in the nose, eyes and lungs. Further contact with the allergen results in recognition by the IgE and subsequent release of histamine.
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  18. IgG

    The abbreviation for the antibody, immunoglobulin G. IgG is the most common antibody found in the body and is used to combat a wide range of diseases. This is the antibody which recognises allergens in non-allergic people. When IgG binds to an allergen it enhances the ability of phagocytes, such as macrophages, to engulf the allergen. This allows the allergen to be processed without producing any allergic reactions.
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  19. Immunotherapy

    Also known as specific immunotherapy, desensitisation therapy, allergy vaccination and "allergy shots". A preventative treatment, essentially for IgE-mediated conditions such as pollen, house-dust mite and insect sting allergies. Immunotherapy consists of injections of gradually increasing doses of the offending allergen, using a very carefully controlled procedure. The vaccine is thought to work via T-helper cell switching.
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  20. Intolerance

    Normally regarded as an adverse reaction to certain foods but which is not an allergic (IgE-based) reaction in origin. This may be clarified by diagnostic testing for allergies.
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  21. MPL®

    MPL® is the registered trade name for 3-deacylated monophosphoryl lipid A and is manufactured by GSK. It is an adjuvant which has been shown to augment the action of allergy vaccines via a stimulation of "Th1" activity.
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  22. Oral allergy vaccines

    A needle-free allergy vaccination therapy attractive to many patients and associated with good safety profiles. A sublingual administration is frequently employed. Courses are generally longer than comparative injectable vaccines.
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  23. Provocation test

    Also known as a challenge test. A test with an allergen generally performed on the eyes, nose or lungs in order to either accurately diagnose an allergy or to monitor the effect of an allergy treatment. Increasing doses are often used to establish a threshold value of sensitivity.
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  24. Rhinitis

    An inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines the nose and often occurs as a result of allergy to airborne allergens. Rhinitis can be seasonal (e.g. seasonal allergic rhinitis or hay fever) or occurs all  year round (e.g. perennial rhinitis, allergy to house dust or animals).
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  25. Skin prick test

    See Diagnostic Testing.
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  26. T-helper cells

    Often abbreviated to Th cells, these are types of lymphocytes (a category of white blood cells involved in generating the immune response). In simplistic terms, allergy vaccination is currently hypothesised to discourage production of Th2 cells (inducing IgE to recognise a specific allergen) and encourage production of Th1 cells (inducing IgG to recognise and deal with the allergen).
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