Updated 17 May 2017

Glossary of allergy terms

Baffled by basophils, ignorant about IgE? Here's what these allergy terms mean.


This glossary includes definitions on some of the most frequently used allergy terms: 

  • Allergen: an allergy-causing substance;
  • Antibody: a B-cell produced protein molecule made in response to, and reactive with, a specific antigen;
  • Antigen: a substance capable of causing the production of antibodies and then reacting specifically with these antibodies;
  • B-cell (B-lymphocyte): a type of white blood cell capable of producing antibodies;
  • Basophil: a white blood cell containing histamine and other allergy mediators;
  • Histamine: a chemical present mainly in mast cells that, when released, causes many of the symptoms of allergy;
  • IgE: the type of antibody most instrumental in allergic reactions;
  • Lymph nodes: small organs within the lymph system located at the intersections of lymph channels;
  • Lymphocyte: a type of white blood cell instrumental in antibody production;
  • Mast cell: a type of cell containing histamine and other allergy mediators instrumental in the allergic response.

(Health24, updated February 2010)

Allergy Society of South Africa (ALLSA)


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Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies.

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