Exhaled nitric oxide is a potential marker of lower airway inflammation. Allergic rhinitis is associated with asthma and bronchial hyperresponsiveness.
To determine whether or not nasal and exhaled NO concentrations are increased in allergic rhinitis and to assess the relation between hyperresponsiveness and exhaled NO, 46 rhinitic and 12 control subjects, all nonasthmatic nonsmokers without upper respiratory tract infection, were randomly selected from a large-scale epidemiological survey in Central Norway. All were investigated with flow–volume spirometry, methacholine provocation test, allergy testing and measurement of nasal and exhaled NO concentration in the nonpollen season. Eighteen rhinitic subjects completed an identical follow-up investigation during the following pollen season.
Exhaled NO was significantly elevated in allergic rhinitis in the nonpollen season, especially in perennially sensitized subjects, as compared with controls (p=0.01), and increased further in the pollen season (p=0.04), mainly due to a two-fold increase in those with seasonal sensitization. Nasal NO was not significantly different from controls in the nonpollen season and did not increase significantly in the pollen season. Exhaled NO was increased in hyperresponsive subjects, and decreased significantly after methacholine-induced bronchoconstriction, suggesting that NO production occurs in the peripheral airways.
In allergic rhinitis, an increase in exhaled nitric oxide on allergen exposure, particularly in hyperresponsive subjects, may be suggestive of airway inflammation and an increased risk for developing asthma.