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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1999 Apr;86(4):1202-10.

Hyperosmolar saline induces reflex nasal secretions, evincing neural hyperresponsiveness in allergic rhinitis.

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  • 1Division of Clinical Immunology, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Asthma & Allergy Center, Baltimore, Maryland 21224-6801, USA.


We investigated whether hyperosmolar saline (HS), applied via paper disk onto the septum of one nostril, induces a nasal secretory response. Furthermore, we examined whether this response is accentuated in patients with active allergic rhinitis (AR) compared with healthy volunteers. Unilateral HS produced significant nasal secretions both ipsilateral and contralateral to the site of challenge in the AR group and only ipsilaterally in the healthy group. The HS-induced nasal secretions were significantly greater in the AR vs. the healthy subjects. In a separate study, we ascertained that the nasal response to HS is neurally mediated and found that ipsilateral nerve blockade with lidocaine significantly attenuates the HS-induced secretions bilaterally. In another group of AR subjects, we determined whether nociceptive fibers were involved in this response and found that sensory nerve desensitization with repeated application of capsaicin attenuated the HS-induced nasal secretions. Finally, we determined whether the secretory hyperresponsiveness in AR is attributable to increased reactivity of submucosal glands rather than of nerves. We found that the dose response to methacholine, which directly stimulates the glands, was identical among AR and healthy subjects. We conclude that, in AR, nasal challenge with HS induces significantly greater reflex secretions involving capsaicin-sensitive nerve fibers, consistent with the notion of neural hyperresponsiveness in this disease.

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