Nasal lavage as a tool for the assessment of upper-airway inflammation in adults and children

J Lab Clin Med. 2002 Mar;139(3):173-80. doi: 10.1067/mlc.2002.121661.


The prevalence of respiratory allergies has increased over the last 20 years, highlighting the need for a simple and noninvasive tool to investigate, in a clinical and epidemiological context, airway-inflammation mechanisms encountered in allergic and inflammatory processes. The nose, as the first region of the respiratory tract to come in contact with airborne pollutants, is easily explored with the use of nasal lavage (NL). We evaluated an NL method for adults and children, along with its reproducibility and capacity to separate different subgroups. NL reproducibility, assessed in 10 healthy, nonsmoking adults on three different occasions, was determined with the use of the intraclass coefficient of correlation for such inflammatory markers as total cell count, albumin, urea, neutrophil elastase, alpha(1)-antitrypsin, interleukin-6, and interleukin-8. Using this NL method, we analyzed nasal markers of 50 healthy adults (smokers and nonsmokers) and 12 healthy children. Our NL method demonstrated high reproducibility with regard to total cell count, albumin, urea, and alpha(1)-antitrypsin (intraclass correlation coefficient > 0.75). Compared with NL results in nonsmokers, NL in heavy smokers revealed significant increased concentrations of total cell counts and interleukin-8 and significant decreased concentrations of interleukin-6. These findings suggest that NL can be used as a tool in the assessment of inflammation because it has the correct reproducibility and can discriminate between heavy smokers and nonsmokers. Moreover, the use of this standardized method in children is feasible.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Albumins / analysis
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Cell Count
  • Child
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Inflammation / diagnosis*
  • Interleukin-6 / analysis
  • Interleukin-8 / analysis
  • Leukocyte Elastase
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasal Lavage Fluid*
  • Neutrophils
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Urea / analysis
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin / analysis


  • Albumins
  • Biomarkers
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-8
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin
  • Urea
  • Leukocyte Elastase