Nasal epithelial cells represent the first barrier against noxious agents and allergens. In allergic rhinitis, these cells are activated and histamine may be involved in this activation. Loratadine and one of its active metabolites, descarboethoxyloratadine, were studied for their ability to reduce the activation of nasal epithelial cells by histamine. Nasal turbinates or polyps were removed during surgery from 19 subjects, and nasal epithelial cells were recovered after enzymatic digestion. The in vitro activation of epithelial cells with histamine using an optimal dose (1 μM) and an optimal time (24 h) of incubation was studied, and the effect of loratadine or descarboethoxyloratadine (l0 μM) was investigated. The expression of membrane markers (intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and a human leukocyte class II antigen (HLA-DR) was assessed by immunocylochemical analysis using an alkaline-antialkaline phosphatase (APAAP) system. The spontaneous expression of both markers was not significantly different in cells recovered from nasal turbinates or polyps, and there was a highly significant increase in the numbers of cells expressing ICAM-1 and HLA-DR following incubation with histamine. Loratadine or descarboethoxyloratadine significantly blocked these effects. This study shows a new possible antiallergic effect of H1-blockers and suggests that their effects on epithelial cells may be relevant in vivo.