Understanding Terms

  • Anaphylaxis

    Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life threatening, allergic reaction which should always be treated as a medical emergency.  Symptoms include difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue and throat, difficulty talking, cough and wheeze, shortness of breath, and dizziness.  Common causes of anaphylaxis include bee stings, food allergy, and medications.

    Adrenaline is used for the first aid treatment of anaphylaxis, usually given via an adrenaline auto-injector (Epipen). People with bee venom and food anaphylaxis should always carry an Epipen, have an Anaphylaxis Management Plan, and have regular visits with their allergist.

  • Asthma

    Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterised by narrowing of the airways, which obstructs the flow of air into and out of the lungs.  Symptoms include wheezing, a persistent cough, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Triggers include allergy (such as house dust mite), cold air, exercise, and smoke.  Asthma can be well controlled with medications, such as steroid inhalers, allowing people to live healthy, active lives.  Read more.

  • Eczema

    Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a common chronic skin condition characterised by dry, itchy, red skin. Most people are able to control their eczema by avoiding irritants (such as hot showers and soap) and moisturising their skin every day, and using steroid creams when needed. Read more.

  • Hayfever

    Hayfever or allergic rhinoconjunctivitis is caused by exposure to airborne environmental allergens such and house dust mite, grass pollen, and pet dander.   Symptoms include itchy, red and watery eyes, a blocked nose, a watery runny nose, sneezing, and itch. People don’t die from hayfever but it can make them miserable affecting their work and school, recreational activities, and sleep.  Treatment includes allergen avoidance, symptomatic management with antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays, and immunotherapy (desensitisation).  Read more.

  • Immunodeficiency

    The complex and clever immune system has evolved to protect against infections and other insults.  A small number of patients have defects in their immune system which may cause recurrent or unusual infections.

  • Autoimmune Conditions

    The immune system is designed to recognise “self” from “foreign”.  In people with autoimmune disease there is a loss of tolerance of self, that is, the immune system attacks healthy normal cells in the body.  Conditions range from common to very rare, trivial to life-threatening, and may affect one or many different organs.  A good example of an autoimmune disease is SLE or lupus, which is relatively common, and can affect many different organs such as skin, joints, blood and kidneys, with the severity depending on the organ affected.

  • Bee Sting Allergy

    In most people bee stings result only in itch, swelling, and redness at the site of the sting, that resolves over a few days.  People with severe bee venom allergy (anaphylaxis) should carry an Epipen and be offered bee venom immunotherapy (desensitisation).

  • Food Allergy

    Although it is possible to be allergic to almost anything, most food allergies are caused by the “Big-8” which are cows milk, egg, fish, shellfish, soy, sesame, and nuts (peanuts and tree nuts).  Food allergies can range from mild (eg. mouth itch) to severe (anaphylaxis).   Learn more.

  • Food intolerances

    Food intolerances are non-immune mediated reactions to food additives and naturally occurring substances in foods including salicylates, amines, and glutamates, the FODMAPs, sulfites, and gluten (non-coeliac gluten intolerance).  Symptoms can be diverse and may be confused with food allergy.

  • Hives

    Hives or urticaria are itchy, red, swellings of the skin that come and go. Urticaria that is present most days for more than 6 weeks is usually not caused by allergy.  In most people, symptoms are well controlled with high dose antihistamines and ranitidine.