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Terms to Know


Allergy - a response mounted by the body's immune system against normally harmless substances, or allergens, such as pollen, food, bee stings, animal dander, or dust.

Allergic Reaction - the body's reaction to these allergens such as pollen, food etc. in a person who is sensitive to them. Reactions range from mild to severe, and may include sneezing, a rash, or difficulty breathing.

Apnea - a condition in which breathing stops for short periods of time.

Asthma (condition/Dx) - a disease of the branches of the lung (bronchial tubes) that carry air in and out.  Asthma causes the airways to narrow, the lining of the airways to become inflamed and produce more mucus. Common symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness.

Asthma Action Plan - a plan written by the health care provider and the patient to help manage the patient's asthma.

Atelectasis  (at-uh-LEK-tuh-sis) - failure of the lung to inflate completely. This may be caused by a blocked airway secondary to mucous, pneumonia, or shallow breathing.


Bradycardia - a slow heart rate.

Bronchiolitis - inflammation of the small airways of the lung, usually caused by a virus such as RSV. It mainly affects infants and toddlers. 

Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (condition/Dx) - a chronic lung disease that is seen primarily in premature babies who require ventilator support and prolonged oxygen therapy when born.

Bronchoscopy (bron-KOS-ko-pee) - a procedure in which a thin, lighted flexible tube is inserted through the nose.  This enables the doctor to examine the air passages of the upper airway and lungs  It is performed with the patient sedated. 


Clubbing - a deformity of the fingers and fingernails. It may be associated with chronic lung disease.

Cough - a sudden noisy expulsion of air from the lungs, usually produced to keep the airways free of foreign matter.

Cyanosis - blue-colored skin or nails caused by too little oxygen in the blood.


Diaphragm - the primary muscle of inspiration.  It is a thin, dome-shaped sheet of muscle that inserts into the lower ribs. 


Exercise-Induced Asthma (condition/Dx) - asthma symptoms that include cough, chest tightness or shortness of breath triggered by exercise, usually running or swimming.

Exhaled Nitric Oxide (eNO) - can be measured in a breath test for asthma or other conditions.  It can indicate that there is inflammation of the airways.


Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD or reflux) - a disorder in which stomach acid is allowed to move up into the esophagus, causing inflammation and discomfort.  It may also cause cough or wheezing to occur. 


Inflammation - is a normal reaction to injury or disease, which results in swelling and redness.

Inhaled Corticosteroid - is the preferred treatment for the long-term control of asthma.  This medication treats inflammation in the airways that cause cough and wheezing.  Very small  amounts of the medication are absorbed into the body, so it is very safe to use in children.


Lung Infiltrate - an abnormal, lighter area seen on chest imaging such as chest X-ray.  The cause is often a pneumonia but other conditions may be to blame. 

Lung Volumes - refers to the volume of air associated with different phases of the respiratory cycle.


Peak Flow Meter - a portable hand held devise used to measure how well air is flowing from the lungs.

Pleural Effusion - abnormal collection of fluid between the lining of the lung and the chest wall.

Pneumonia (condition/Dx) - is inflammation of the lungs due to a bacterial or viral infection, or aspiration.

Pneumothorax - abnormal collection of air between the lining of the lung and the chest wall.


Retractions - when the chest appears to sink in just below the neck, between the ribs, or under the breastbone. This occurs when a person is having difficulty breathing.


Sleep Apnea (condition/Dx) - abnormal pauses in breathing that occur during sleep.

Spirometry (procedure) - is a diagnostic test which measures the amount of air entering and leaving the lungs.

Steroids - medication used to treat swelling and inflammation.

Stridor - is a high-pitched sound heard best when a patient breaths in and is caused by narrowing of the upper airway.


Tachypnea - rapid breathing.

Thorax - the body region between the head and the abdomen.

Trachea - "windpipe" the passage way of air to the lungs.


Wheeze - is a high pitched whistling sound usually heard when an individual breathes out.