Cysteinyl-leukotrienes (CysLTs) are endogenous mediators of inflammation and play an important role in allergic airway disease by stimulating bronchoconstriction, mucus production, mucosal oedema and inflammation, airway infiltration by eosinophils, and dendritic cell maturation that prepares for future allergic response. Montelukast inhibits these actions by blocking type 1 CysLT receptors found on immunocytes, smooth muscle and endothelium in the respiratory mucosa. Initially developed as a treatment for asthma, montelukast has more recently found use in the treatment of allergic rhinitis (AR). We conducted a systematic review of studies that have evaluated montelukast in the treatment of seasonal AR (SAR) and perennial AR (PAR), with and without concomitant asthma. Primary consideration was given to large, randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trials in which AR endpoints were assessed and the use of concurrent treatments for AR was excluded. Eight such studies were found in the literature. The primary endpoint in these was daytime nasal symptom severity represented by a composite score derived from individual self-ratings of nasal congestion, rhinorrhoea, nasal pruritus and sneezing. Secondary endpoints have included these individual nasal symptom scores, additional scores for eye, ear and throat symptoms, the impact of rhinitis on quality of sleep, global evaluations of outcome by patients and physicians, and measures of the severity of concomitant asthma. A general outcome was that patients treated with montelukast had significantly greater improvements in their symptoms of SAR and PAR than did patients who were given a placebo. As monotherapy, montelukast exhibited efficacy similar to that of loratadine, but less than that of the intranasally administered corticosteroid fluticasone propionate. The use of montelukast in combination with antihistamines such as loratadine or cetirizine has generally resulted in greater efficacy than when these agents were used alone, and in some studies has produced results comparable with intranasally applied corticosteroids. In patients with AR comorbid with asthma, montelukast treatment has resulted in significant improvements in both, compared with placebo. Montelukast is well tolerated and has a favourable safety profile; adverse events have occurred at similar frequencies in patients taking either montelukast or placebo. Montelukast provides an effective and well tolerated oral treatment for allergic airway inflammation in patients with SAR or PAR without asthma, and in patients in whom AR is comorbid with asthma.