Reflex activation of nasal secretion by unilateral inhalation of cold dry air

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1993 Dec;148(6 Pt 1):1616-22. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm/148.6_Pt_1.1616.


Exposure to cold dry air induces rhinorrhea and other nasal symptoms in many persons. To evaluate whether this response involves a neurogenic component, we delivered a unilateral cold dry air (UniCDA) nasal challenge to volunteers with previously documented reactivity to cold dry air. We measured their nasal secretory responses bilaterally using small filter paper discs to absorb secretions from the nasal mucosa. UniCDA increased nasal secretion both ipsilateral (p < 0.001) and contralateral (p < 0.001) to the challenge when compared with control challenge. Topical atropine (0.225 mg), a muscarinic antagonist, inhibited ipsilateral secretion (p < 0.002) when given ipsilateral to UniCDA. When atropine was given contralateral to UniCDA, there was a trend toward reduction of contralateral secretion but no effect on ipsilateral secretion. Topical anesthesia with lidocaine given ipsilateral to UniCDA inhibited ipsilateral (p < 0.02) and contralateral (p < 0.05) secretion immediately after challenge. Topical anesthesia did not inhibit methacholine-induced nasal secretion. Thus, UniCDA stimulates reflex secretion both ipsilateral and contralateral to challenge which is inhibitable by interrupting either the efferent or the afferent arm of the reflex arc. This human in vivo model supports the importance of neural mechanisms in airway responsiveness to an environmental stimulus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anesthesia, Local
  • Atropine / pharmacology
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Humidity*
  • Lidocaine / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Nasal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Oxymetazoline / pharmacology
  • Random Allocation
  • Reflex* / drug effects
  • Respiration / physiology*


  • Atropine
  • Oxymetazoline
  • Lidocaine