Seventy-four patients with a well documented history of seasonal allergic rhinitis were randomly allocated to receive either astemizole 10 mg orally per day or beclomethasone 100 μg in each nostril twice daily on a double-blind double-dummy basis. The patients were studied in a general practice setting and were seen at entry, during the study and at the end of the study by a single observer, the author. Assessment was by diary card incorporating five 10 cm visual analogue scales related to the four symptoms of sneezing, rhinorrhoea, blocked nose and itchy eyes and an overall assessment of hay fever symptoms. Patients were asked if the medication had upset them in any way at each observer assessment. Symptom severity, as recorded by the visual analogue scales, was not significantly different for sneezing, rhinorrhoea, blocked nose or overall between the two groups but the symptom scores for itchy eyes were significantly better for the astemizole group. Adverse effects were minimal and of a minor nature only. There was no real difference between the two groups regarding adverse effects. The study suggests that oral astemizole is at least as good as nasal beclomethasone in the maintenance treatment of hay fever and that it offers the additional advantage of improved control of eye symptoms.