Twenty subjects with symptoms of hay fever were studied to see whether abnormalities could be detected in the function of small airways. The investigations included dynamic compliance at varying respiratory frequencies, closing capacity, residual volume, transfer factor, and maximal expiratory flow-volume curves. The tests were repeated in the winter when symptoms had resolved. Frequency dependence of compliance was found in eight subjects with symptoms (40%), closing capacities being abnormal in only two instances. Conventional pulmonary function tests, including expiratory flow rates at mid vital capacity, were within the predicted range of all subjects. When tests were repeated in the winter, frequency dependence of compliance was no longer present in subjects whose symptoms had resolved. The study suggests that reversible small airway abnormalities are present in a significant proportion of subjects with symptoms of hay fever and that such abnormalities are best detected by the measurement of dynamic compliance at varying respiratory frequencies.
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