The effect of oral and inhaled cetirizine, a potent and specific H1 receptor antagonist, was studied in patients with exercise induced asthma. Twelve patients (five male; mean age 35.2 years) were given oral placebo or cetirizine 10 mg twice daily for one week, double blind and in randomised order, and exercised on a treadmill for six to eight minutes at a submaximal work load two hours after the final dose. There was no significant change in baseline FEV1 after treatment and cetirizine failed to inhibit exercise induced bronchoconstriction (maximum falls in FEV1 28% and 27% of baseline). In a further eight patients (four male; mean age 40.8 years) the effect of 1 ml cetirizine (5 and 10 mg/ml) given through a Wright nebuliser was compared with that of placebo in a double blind trial. The fall in FEV1 after exercise was reduced after both concentrations of cetirizine by 15.2% of baseline after 5 mg/ml and by 10.2% after 10 mg/ml, compared with 23.7% after placebo. In two patients cetirizine had no effect. In a further study cetirizine (10 mg/ml) given by inhalation displaced the geometric mean PC20 histamine 13.1 fold to the right by comparison with placebo. The reason for the difference between the effects of oral and of inhaled cetirizine on exercise asthma is not clear but may be related to differences in local concentration in the airway.
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