Glossary of Asthma Words

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This glossary will tell you the meanings of the most common asthma words used by your doctor, nurse or health care team.

: pronounced “az-muh”, it is a disease of the lungs that causes the bronchial tubes to become inflamed and constricted, not allowing enough air into the lungs. Asthma is a hereditary condition that is treatable but not curable.

Constrict: to make tight or cramped. When bronchial tubes are constricted, very little air can pass through them.

Bronchial tubes: the airway tubes that lead down the throat and into the lungs. Air passes through these tubes and into the lungs so that oxygen can be passed to the rest of the body. During an asthma attack, these tubes become constricted and air cannot pass through them easily.

Trigger: to cause to happen, or something that causes a reaction, such as an asthma attack. For example, dust is a common trigger of asthma attacks because it often triggers them.

Dust mites: very tiny insects that are found in dust. They are so small they can be breathed right into your lungs, and they often cause asthma attacks. One way to get rid of them is to get rid of the dust they live in.

Stress: anything that causes strain and emotional upset, such as very tiring work or being unprepared for a meeting or deadline. Your body reacts to stress the same way it would react if you were being chased by a wild animal. Certain chemicals are released that speed up some of the body’s functions, like the heartbeat and blood pressure. Stress can bring on asthma attacks in some people.

Allergies: these are reactions that the body has to anything it may be sensitive to when it is exposed to it. Certain allergies, such as reactions to food or to pollen, can trigger asthma attacks. An allergen is the item that causes the allergy.

Peak flow meter: a device to measure how quickly air can be breathed out of the lungs. By using a peak flow meter daily, and recording the results, an asthma sufferer can predict and possibly prevent attacks.

Anti-inflammatories: drugs that reduce swelling or inflammation in the body. Cromolyn, theophylline, and steroids are types of anti-inflammatories used to prevent asthma.

Antihistamines: drugs that prevent the body from reacting to certain allergens or hay fever by blocking histamines, which are made by the body and cause our eyes to water and our noses to itch, burn, and sneeze repeatedly. Some antihistamines are helpful in preventing asthma attacks.

Antibiotics: drugs that destroy the growth of any microorganisms in the human body. Antibiotics are taken when an infection is present, to kill the germs that are causing the infection. Some antibiotics can help to prevent asthma attacks.

“Rescue medication”: drugs that work right away to stop an asthma attack once it has started. Most rescue medicines are inhaled, or breathed directly into the lungs and take only minutes to take effect.

Bronchodilators: medicine that comes in an inhaler and is breathed directly into the lungs to relieve an asthma attack. This is the most common type of rescue medication.

Inhaler: a small hand-held device that holds a canister of medication (bronchodilator) and allows the medication to be pumped out and breathed in by the asthma sufferer.

Puff: one “pump” of bronchodilator medication from an inhaler. Your child’s doctor will let you know how many “puffs” he should take for each dose.

Spacer: a device that attaches to an inhaler to make breathing in the medication easier for children.

Holding chamber: a device that attaches to an inhaler and holds any extra medicine until it can be breathed into the lungs.

Nebulizer: a machine that sprays a fine mist of medication into the lungs of an asthmatic. Liquid medicine is poured into the nebulizer, and over the course of ten or fifteen minutes, it is pumped out into the lungs.

I.V.: an abbreviation for intravenous, meaning “into the veins.” An I.V. is given when someone is dehydrated and cannot take liquids by mouth, or when medicine needs to be given but cannot be taken orally by the patient. I.V.’s are usually given by doctors or nurses at a hospital or emergency room.

Treatment plan: a plan designed by your child’s doctor that includes all medications and in what dosages your child should take, both for prevention and treatment of asthma attacks. Your child’s doctor will work closely with you on instructions and information about your child’s treatment.

Tags: Bronchodilator, Inhaler, Asthma, Dosage forms, Respiratory therapy
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