Inhalation of ozone in normal subjects causes a neutrophilic inflammatory response in the airways. Pretreatment with inhaled corticosteroids reduces the inflammatory response to inhaled ozone in dogs. We undertook a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover study to investigate the effects of 2 wk of treatment with inhaled budesonide 800 microg twice daily or placebo prior to ozone exposure in humans. Fifteen (six male; mean age, 31.1 +/- 2.1 yr) healthy nonsmokers were exposed to 400 parts per billion (ppb) ozone for 2 h with intermittent exercise. Spirometry, exhaled carbon monoxide (CO) and nitric oxide (NO) levels, measurement of methacholine reactivity, and collection of exhaled air condensate and induced sputum samples were performed at baseline, preexposure, and at intervals up to 24 h postexposure. Ozone exposure led to significant decreases in spirometry and increased methacholine reactivity and sputum neutrophils and myeloperoxidase (MPO). There were no changes in exhaled NO and CO levels, or exhaled breath nitrite after ozone exposure. There were no differences in any of the parameters after treatment with budesonide compared with placebo, and no differences in the response to ozone between treatment groups. We conclude that a high dose of inhaled corticosteroid does not protect against the effects of ozone exposure in normal subjects.