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Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2008 Apr;8(2):111-7.

Upper airways reactions to cold air.

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  • 1Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20817-6601, USA.


Cold air-induced rhinitis is a common complaint of individuals with chronic allergic or nonallergic rhinitis and those with no chronic nasal disease. It is characterized by rhinorrhea, nasal congestion, and nasal burning that appear within minutes of exposure to cold air and dissipate soon after exposure is terminated. The symptoms of cold-air rhinitis are reproduced experimentally with nasal cold-air provocation. This procedure has shown that nasal mast cell activation and sensory nerve stimulation are associated with the development of nasal symptoms. Sensory nerve activation generates a cholinergic reflex that leads to rhinorrhea; therefore, anticholinergic agents are highly effective in treating cold-air rhinitis. Experimental data suggest that individuals with nasal cold-air sensitivity may have reduced ability to compensate for the water loss that occurs during exposure to cold air. Therefore, the symptoms of cold air-induced rhinitis may reflect the activation of compensatory mechanisms to restore mucosal homeostasis.

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