Allergic rhinitis is an inflammatory disorder associated with local leukotriene release during periods of symptoms. Therefore, it has been suggested that antileukotrienes may be beneficial in the treatment of this disease. Leukotriene receptor antagonists have recently become available for asthma treatment, but little is known of their effects on allergic rhinitis. We have evaluated the effects of the leukotriene receptor antagonist zafirlukast versus placebo in patients with allergic rhinitis during the grass pollen season, using the nasal glucocorticoid beclomethasone dipropionate (BDP) as a positive treatment control. Thirty-three patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis were in a double-blind, double-dummy fashion randomized to treatments with oral zafirlukast (20 mg twice a day), intranasal beclomethasone dipropionate (200 microg twice a day), or placebo. The treatment was initiated 3 wk prior to the expected beginning of the grass pollen season. Patients completed a daily symptom-score list for sneezing, rhinorrhea, nasal itch, and nasal blockage during the 50-d treatment period. Nasal biopsies for quantification of local tissue eosinophilia (immunohistochemistry; EG2) were taken 1 mo before initiation of treatment and immediately after the peak of grass pollen season. Patients receiving treatment with zafirlukast had degrees of nasal symptoms similar to those in the placebo group, whereas the BDP group had significantly less symptoms compared with both treatments (p = 0.01 and p = 0.005, respectively). The numbers of activated eosinophils in the nasal tissue increased significantly during the pollen season in both the zafirlukast and the placebo groups, but not in the BDP group. These results obtained with a limited number of patients do not support any clinical efficacy of regular treatment with an oral antileukotriene in seasonal allergic rhinitis but rather favor the use of a nasal glucocorticoid.