A nasal challenge model of allergic rhinitis was used to determine if pretreatment with oral theophylline reduces histamine release in vivo. Ten subjects were entered into a double-blind, cross-over trial. The results showed that both the physiologic response (sneezing) (p = 0.02) and the amount of mediators (histamine, kinins, toluene sulfonyl arginine methyl ester esterase activity) (p less than 0.01 for all) released into nasal secretions were significantly reduced after one week of pretreatment with theophylline. At the time of challenge, the serum concentrations of theophylline were between 8 and 22 micrograms/ml. It is speculated that the ability of theophylline to block the clinical response to antigen challenge and to decrease the release of mast cell mediators contributes to its clinical efficacy in the treatment of asthma.