Experimental research in humans and animals points to the importance of adverse respiratory effects from short-term particle exposures and to the importance of proinflammatory effects of air pollutants, particularly O(subscript)3. However, particle averaging time has not been subjected to direct scientific evaluation, and there is a lack of epidemiological research examining both this issue and whether modification of air pollutant effects occurs with differences in asthma severity and anti-inflammatory medication use. The present study examined the relationship of adverse asthma symptoms (bothersome or interfered with daily activities or sleep) to O(3) and particles (less than or equal to)10 micrometer (PM10) in a Southern California community in the air inversion zone (1200-2100 ft) with high O(3) and low PM (R = 0.3). A panel of 25 asthmatics 9-17 years of age were followed daily, August through October 1995 (n = 1,759 person-days excluding one subject without symptoms). Exposures included stationary outdoor hourly PM10 (highest 24-hr mean, 54 microgram/m(3), versus median of 1-hr maximums, 56 microgram/m(3) and O(3) (mean of 1-hr maximums, 90 ppb, 5 days (greater than or equal to)120 ppb). Longitudinal regression analyses utilized the generalized estimating equations (GEE) model controlling for autocorrelation, day of week, outdoor fungi, and weather. Asthma symptoms were significantly associated with both outdoor O(3) and PM(10) in single pollutant- and co-regressions, with 1-hr and 8-hr maximum PM(10) having larger effects than the 24-hr mean. Subgroup analyses showed effects of current day PM(10) maximums were strongest in 10 more frequently symptomatic (MS) children: the odds ratios (ORs) for adverse symptoms from 90th percentile increases were 2.24 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.46-3.46] for 1-hr PM10 (47 microgram/m(3); 1.82 (CI, 1.18-2.81) for 8-hr PM10 (36 microgram/m(3); and 1.50 (CI, 0.80-2.80) for 24-hr PM10 (25 microgram/m(3). Subgroup analyses also showed the effect of current day O(subscript)3 was strongest in 14 less frequently symptomatic (LS) children: the ORs were 2.15 (CI, 1.04-4.44) for 1-hr O(3) (58 ppb) and 1.92 (CI, 0.97-3.80) for 8-hr O(3) (46 ppb). Effects of 24-hr PM10 were seen in both groups, particularly with 5-day moving averages (ORs were 1.95 for MS and 4. 03 for LS; p(less than or equal to)0.05). The largest effects were in 7 LS children not on anti-inflammatory medications [5-day, 8-hr PM10, 9.66 (CI, 2.80-33.21); current day, 1-hr O(3), 4.14 (CI, 1.71-11.85)]. Results suggest that examination of short-term particle excursions, medication use, and symptom severity in longitudinal studies of asthma yields sensitive measures of adverse respiratory effects of air pollution.