Although H1 antihistamine compounds (H1) are highly effective in the treatment of allergic rhinitis (AR), their role in the treatment of asthma is still controversial. Because a strong association between AR and bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) has been reported, this study was designed to assess the effect of a new H1 anti histamine, cetirizine (C), on nonspecific BHR in patients with AR. Twelve patients were included in a double-blind, crossover, placebo-controlled trial. All patients had positive skin tests for common allergens and showed BHR to inhaled methacholine after specific nasal allergenic challenge. After a washout period of 1 week to ensure the stability of the BHR, the patients received, by crossover randomization, C 10 mg daily or placebo (P) for 2 weeks. After each treatment period, BHR and nasal blocking index (NBI) were measured 1 and 6 h after nasal challenge. Bronchial responsiveness was expressed as methacholine PD20, the provocation dose of methacholine causing a 20% decrease in FEV1. Measurements were then performed after 2 weeks of C and after 2 weeks of P. Baseline values of PD20 (median) measured before challenge showed no difference after cetirizine or after placebo (1.36 mg). Results 1 h after allergen did not show significant differences between C (methacholine PD20=0.522 mg) and placebo (methacholine PD20=0.455 mg). By contrast, 6 h after challenge, methacholine PD20 was 0.918 mg for C and 0.483 mg for P (P=0.042). Similarly, NBI showed no change between C and P 1 h after challenge, whereas the difference was significant 6 h after challenge (P=0.011). These data demonstrate a protective nasal effect of C against BHR measured 6 h after nasal allergen challenge in patients with AR. They suggest that C may be useful in patients with asthma associated with AR.