The T-helper 2 (Th2) cytokines interleukin-(IL-) 4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-10 and the Th1 cytokine IFN-γ and their associations with eosinophils, eosinophilic cationic protein (ECP) and immunoglobulin (Ig) E were studied in nasal lavage fluid from 60 school children with allergic seasonal rhinitis and 36 nonatopic healthy controls, before and during the pollen season. Eosinophil differential counts and IgE increased significantly in the patients during the pollen season. The eosinophil differential counts, ECP and IgE were all significantly higher during the season than in specimens simultaneously obtained from the nonatopic controls. Before season, the levels of ECP and IgE, but not eosinophils, were significantly higher in the patients than in the controls. During the season the nasal lavage fluid levels of IFN-γ were significantly lower and the IL-4/IFN-γ quotients significantly higher in the allergic than in the control children. In the allergic children, but not in the controls, the nasal fluid levels of the Th2 cytokines IL-4, IL-5 and IL-10 increased during the season, and together with IL-6, were correlated with the differential counts of eosinophils, and with the levels of ECP and IgE. These findings are compatible with the hypothesis that a deficient release of the Th1 cytokine IFN-γ plays an important role in the pathogenesis of allergic inflammation. Regardless of whether the defective IFN-γ secretion is primary or a consequence of suppression by other cytokines, it will in the atopic subjects enhance the release of Th2 cytokines, which in turn will facilitate the development of allergic inflammation.