COVID-19 Glossary

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Theophylline agents

These agents open airways, prevent and relieve airway spasms, and prevent night-time cough and shortness of breath.


A small, hand-held device that helps to keep the airways open and prevent the lungs from collapsing.


The muscular and bony structure of the chest.

tidal volume

The quantity of air inhaled and exhaled in one respiratory cycle during regular breathing.

total lung capacity test

A test that measures the amount of air in the lungs after a person has breathed in as much as possible.


The main airway (windpipe) supplying air to both lungs.


A surgical opening made when necessary in the main airway, the trachea.


The spread of disease. A disease can be transmitted from person to person, from person to animal to person or by the environment (think: giardia in water.) Coronaviruses are transmitted in respiratory droplets, which are drops of water and mucus that come out of our lungs when we cough and sneeze. They can also contaminate door handles and surfaces.



An injected medication that might stimulate the immune response to protect a person from an infection.


A device that delivers air into the lungs through a tube that is placed into the mouth or nose and down into the windpipe. 

viral shedding

The period of time after the virus has replicated in the host and is being emitted.


A measure of how much damage a germ does. Virulence can also refer to chemicals and toxins. COVID-19 is more virulent than the flu but less virulent than SARS and MERS.


A type of germ or microbe. Viruses are not considered alive because they don’t have the tools they need to replicate on their own. The flu, COVID-19, Zika and Ebola are all caused by viruses. Viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics.

vital capacity

Maximal breathing capacity; the amount of air that can be expired after a maximum inspiration



The high-pitched whistling sound of air entering or leaving narrowed airways

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