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Clin Exp Allergy. 2010 May;40(5):731-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2010.03461.x. Epub 2010 Mar 1.

Disconnect between standardized field-based testing and mannitol challenge in Scottish elite swimmers.

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  • 1Asthma & Allergy Research Group, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Ninewells Hospital & Medical School, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK.



Elite swimmers have high rates of rhinoconjunctivitis and exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Moreover, exposure to chlorine and chlorine metabolites is known to induce bronchial hyper-reactivity.


To assess the early and late effects of chlorine and exercise on the unified airway of elite swimmers, and to compare the response to mannitol and field-based exercise challenge.


The Scottish national squad underwent exhaled tidal (FE(NO)) and nasal (N(NO)) nitric oxide measurement, peak nasal inspiratory flow (PNIF), and forced expiratory volume in 1 s before, immediately after, and 4-6 h post-swimming. A sport-specific exercise test was carried out during an intensive lactate set (8 min at >/=80% maximum hear rate). All swimmers underwent mannitol challenge, and completed a health questionnaire.


N=61 swimmers were assessed: 8/59 (14%) of swimmers had a positive mannitol challenge. Nine out of 57 (16%) of swimmers had a positive exercise test. Only one swimmer was positive to both. Swimmers with a positive mannitol had a significantly higher baseline FE(NO) (37.3 vs. 18.0 p.p.b., P=0.03) than those with a positive exercise challenge. A significant decrease in FE(NO) was observed pre vs. immediate and delayed post-chlorine exposure: mean (95% CI) 18.7 (15.9-22.0) p.p.b. vs. 15.9 (13.3-19.1) p.p.b. (P<0.01), and 13.9 (11.5-16.7) p.p.b. (P<0.01), respectively. There were no significant differences in N(NO.) Mean PNIF increased from 142.4 L/min (5.8) at baseline to 162.6 L/min (6.3) immediately post-exposure (P<0.01). Delayed post-exposure PNIF was not significantly different from pre-exposure.


No association was found between mannitol and standardized field-based testing in elite swimmers. Mannitol was associated with a high baseline FE(NO); however, exercise/chlorine challenge was not. Thus, mannitol may identify swimmers with a 'traditional' inflammatory asthmatic phenotype, while field-based exercise/chlorine challenge may identify a swimmer-specific bronchoconstrictor response. A sustained fall in FE(NO) following chlorine exposure suggests that a non-cellular, perhaps neurogenic, response may be involved in this group of athletes.

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