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Asthma Glossary of Terms

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Monitoring: keeping track of.

Mucus: a material produced by glands in the airways, nose, and sinuses. Mucus cleans and protects certain parts of the body such as the lungs.

Nasal spray: medication used to help prevent and treat nasal congestion or nasal allergy symptoms. Available by prescription or over-the-counter in decongestant, corticosteroid, or salt-water solution form.

Nebulizer: a machine that changes liquid medicine into fine droplets (in aerosol or mist form) that are inhaled through a mouthpiece or mask. Nebulizers can be used to deliver bronchodilator (airway-opening) drugs such as albuterol and Atrovent, as well as anti-inflammatory medicines (Pulmicort Respules). A nebulizer may be used instead of a metered dose inhaler (MDI). It is powered by a compressed air machine and plugs into an electrical outlet.

Non-steroidal: anti-inflammatory medication that is not a steroid. Also see steroid.

Oxygen: the essential element in the respiration process to sustain life. This colorless, odorless gas makes up about 21% of the air.

Peak Expiratory flow rate: a test used to measure how fast air can be exhaled from the lungs.

Peak flow meter: a small hand-held device that measures how fast air comes out of the lungs when a person exhales forcefully. This measurement is called a peak expiratory flow (PEF) and is measured in liters per minute (lpm). A person's PEF may drop hours or even days before asthma symptoms are noticeable. Readings from the meter can help the patient recognize early changes that may be signs of worsening asthma. A peak flow meter can also help the patient learn what triggers his or her symptoms and understand what symptoms indicate that emergency care is needed. Peak flow readings also help the doctor decide when to stop or add medications.

Personal best peak expiratory flow (PEF): the highest peak flow number a person can achieve when symptoms are under good control. The personal best PEF is the number to which all other peak flow readings will be compared. In children, peak expiratory flow rates are based on how tall the child is. Therefore, the personal best peak expiratory flow will change as growth occurs. A child's personal best peak expiratory flow should be redetermined approximately every 6 months or when a growth spurt has occurred.

Pneumonia: an infection of the lung, which may be located in only one area.

Pollen: a fine, powdery substance released by plants and trees; an allergen.

Pollen and mold counts: a measure of the amount of allergens in the air. The counts are usually reported for mold spores and three types of pollen: grasses, trees, and weeds. The count is reported as grains per cubic meter of air and is translated into a corresponding level: absent, low, medium, or high.

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