To evaluate the long-term effect of prematurity and/or hyaline membrane disease (HMD) on pulmonary function and airway reactivity, we studied 49 prematurely born children aged 10 to 13 years. They were divided into three groups according to birth weight and HMD status: Groups I and II comprised the children weighing less than 1,500 g at birth, and Group III those whose birth weight exceeded 1,500 g. Children without HMD at birth were classified as Group I and those with HMD as Group II or III. We performed both pulmonary function tests and methacholine (MCh) challenges and compared the results with those of 27 age-matched controls born at term. We found that FEV1 and RV/TLC ratios were significantly different from control values in the groups with birth weights less than 1,500 g, regardless of their HMD status (Groups I and II). In Group I, results for FEF25-75%, Vmax50%, and DLCO were lower than those of controls. Airway reactivity was significantly increased in Groups I and II. A 20% drop in FEV1 after MCh challenge was found in 88%, 62%, 53%, and 36% of children in Groups I, II, and III and controls, respectively, and a 35% drop in SGaw occurred in 87%, 88%, 53%, and 59%. We conclude that prematurity and not HMD per se leads to long-term pulmonary abnormalities and to an increase in nonspecific airway reactivity.