The airway mucosa responds to inflammatory provocations with bulk exudation of plasma into the airway tissue (vascular exudation) and lumen (mucosal exudation). The intensity and time course of the exudative response can be relevantly examined by sampling and analysing airway surface liquids, because the luminal entry of plasma proteins/tracers promptly and quantitatively reflects the exudative response of the airways. The process of mucosal exudation of plasma is a prominent feature of airway inflammation and has been demonstrated in rhinitis, asthma, and bronchitis. Inflammatory mediators and allergen produce mucosal exudation of plasma into the airway lumen (outward permeability) whereas the solute absorption across the mucosa (inward permeability) is unaffected. Hence, in contrast to current views, we have demonstrated that in airway inflammation the solute absorption across the airway mucosa is not increased. The findings suggest the plasma exudation response also as a first line respiratory mucosal defence, allowing potent plasma protein systems to appear on an airway mucosa functionally intact as a barrier toward undue luminal material. Our data on plasma exudation and solute absorption across the mucosa of upper and lower airways further suggest the human nasal airways as a model relevant also for the tracheobronchial airways.