Little is known about airway responsiveness in infancy. The bronchial response to incremental doses of nebulised histamine (to a maximum dose of 8 g/l) was measured in 11 wheezy infants with a mean age of 8.7 months. The study was repeated after a 30-40 minute recovery period in seven infants and again on a separate day in 10. The index of response was the provoking concentration of histamine that produced a 30% fall in the maximum expiratory flow at functional residual capacity (PC30), taken from partial forced expiratory flow-volume curves produced in a pressure jacket. Nine of 11 infants had a PC30 of less than 8 g/l. The response was consistent between tests in both the nine responders and the two who failed to respond at 8 g/l. The PC30 was lower in infants with more severe baseline airway obstruction. Spontaneous recovery after challenge was complete in 30 minutes in seven of eight infants studied. The highest doses of histamine caused changes in the configuration of the flow-volume curves and symptomatic cough and wheeze in addition to a change in forced flow rates. This study provides clear evidence of intrathoracic airway responsiveness to histamine in infancy.
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