To better understand how changes in cells in nasal secretions reflect changes in the nasal mucosa occurring during allergic reactions, we obtained nasal lavage and biopsy specimens from normal (n = 11) asymptomatic, seasonally allergic (n = 18), and perennially allergic (n = 18) subjects. Initial baseline lavages showed that perennially, and seasonally allergic subjects, out of their allergy seasons, had significantly higher numbers of eosinophils (p < 0.01) and neutrophils (p < 0.01) and total cell counts (p < 0.05) than normal subjects. Biopsy results showed that at baseline, seasonally allergic subjects had thicker mucosa (p < 0.01), greater numbers of intraepithelial mononuclear cells and total cells (p < 0.01), and greater numbers of subepithelial neutrophils (p < 0.001) than perennially allergic subjects. Twenty-four hours after antigen provocation, nasal lavage of allergic subjects showed an increase in the number of eosinophils (p < 0.05). Seasonally allergic subjects also had significant increases in numbers of intraepithelial mononuclear cells (p < 0.05) and total cells (p < 0.01), and in subepithelial eosinophils (p < 0.001) and mononuclear cells (p < 0.05), which were localized to the side challenged. Despite an influx in eosinophils, the epithelial layer was not changed from baseline. The data provide evidence that nasal secretions and the nasal mucosa represent two distinct cellular compartments.