Hardwood smoke (HWS) from wood burning stoves and fireplaces can be a significant contributor to the composition of ambient air pollution. We hypothesize that the inhalation of HWS by ovalbumin (OVA)-sensitized mice with preexisting lung inflammation leads to the exacerbation of allergic airway responses. Two different models were employed to characterize the effects of inhaled wood smoke on allergic airway inflammation. In both models, male BALB/c mice were sensitized by injection with OVA and alum. In one model, mice were challenged by inhalation with OVA 1 day prior to exposure to HWS (30, 100, 300, or 1000 microg particulate matter [PM]/m(3)) for 6 h/day on 3 consecutive days. In the other model, mice were exposed by inhalation to OVA, rested for 11 days, were exposed to HWS for 3 consecutive days, and then were exposed to OVA immediately after the final HWS exposure. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), and blood collection were performed approximately 18 h after the last HWS or OVA exposure. HWS exposure after the final allergen challenge (first model) led to a significant increase in BAL eosinophils only at the 300 microg/m(3) level. In contrast, changes in BAL cells did not reach statistical significance in the second model. There were no HWS-induced changes in BAL interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4, IL-13, and interferon (IFN)gamma levels in either model following OVA challenge. These results suggest that acute HWS exposure can minimally exacerbate some indices of allergic airway inflammation when a final OVA challenge precedes HWS exposure, but does not alter Th1/Th2 cytokine levels.