In asthma there is increased vascularity of the airway mucosa, altering heat loss in the airways. We hypothesized that as a result of these inflammatory changes, asthmatic patients would have elevated rates of the exhaled air temperature increase (Deltae degrees T). We measured Deltae degrees T in 18 asthmatic subjects (mean age +/- SEM, 38 +/- 8 yr; 9 male, FEV(1) 74 +/- 10%) and 16 normal volunteers (mean age +/- SEM, 33 +/- 3 yr) and compared it with exhaled nitric oxide (NO) as a marker of inflammation. Deltae degrees T was measured during a flow- and pressure-controlled single exhalation with a fast response (1 ms) thermometer. The end-expiratory plateau temperature was similar in asthmatic compared with normal subjects (35.75 +/- 0.6 degrees C and 34.45 +/- 0.8 degrees C, p > 0.05). However, Deltae degrees T was greater in asthmatic subjects (8.17 +/- 0.83 degrees C/s and 4.12 +/- 0.41 degrees C/s, p < 0.01) and correlated with NO (r = 0.65, p = 0.034). Deltae degrees T was increased in normal subjects (from 4.28 +/- 0.8 degrees C/s to 7.60 +/- 0.5 degrees C/s, p < 0.01) but not in asthmatic patients (from 8.28 +/- 0.41 degrees C/s to 8.80 +/- 0.41 degrees C/s, p > 0.05) after the inhalation of albuterol, indicating that Deltae degrees T may reflect bronchial blood flow. Asthmatic subjects have elevated Deltae degrees T. This may represent a novel, noninvasive means of measuring airway blood flow and inflammation in asthma.