Airways reactivity, hyper-reactivity, and hyper-responsiveness are terms used to describe airways for which there appears to be increased bronchial smooth muscle tone or responsiveness. Some patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) have concomitant asthma causing airway hyperresponsiveness as manifested by recurrent acute symptoms of dyspnea that is impressively responsive to an inhaled beta 2 agonist and/or systemic corticosteroids. However, many others have a degree of bronchodilator responsiveness in the absence of an impressive clinical response to such anti-asthmatic treatment. In contrast to those with asthma, exercise does not induce bronchospasm and can even cause bronchodilatation in patients with CF who have bronchodilator responsiveness in the absence of asthma. The airway hyperresponsiveness of CF also differs in its response to histamine induced bronchospasm which is effectively reversed with ipratropium in patients with CF who symptomatically do not have asthma, whereas ipratropium does not adequately reverse histamine-induced bronchospasm in those with concomitant symptoms of asthma. These and other data suggest that the increased airway reactivity in patients with CF is vagally mediated and results from the airway damage caused by the lung disease. The use of bronchodilators as a routine part of CF lung disease care is controversial, but there is little evidence that treating airway reactivity in patients with CF is of clinical importance as a routine measure in the absence of clinical asthma. Definite subjective improvement in symptoms or improved sputum production when a bronchodilator precedes chest physical therapy should be sought to justify continued use in individual patients.