We reexamined the ability of inhaled ragweed pollen to induce bronchoconstriction in ragweed-sensitive asthmatic patients using a turbo-inhaler to administer pollen quantitatively. Adult subjects were selected for study on the basis of fall season asthmatic attacks, positive skin test, histamine release, RAST, and bronchial challenge responses to ragweed extract. Not one of 12 such subjects had any bronchial response to oral inhalation of whole pollen grains even when the dose was increased to 7640 pollen grains (more than the estimated maximum daily exposure in season), whereas nasal challenge by the same method produced brisk hay fever responses without bronchospasm. On the other hand, when the pollen was ground to fragments with a size range of 1 to 8 μm, oral inhalation produced a 35% fall in airways conductance in six of seven subjects in doses ranging from 59 to 20,000 pollen grain equivalents. Atropine pretreatment did not modify the response to pollen fragments, making an irritant response unlikely. These data, coupled with earlier observations that no more than a few pollen grains penetrate further than the larynx, raise further questions about the role of whole ragweed pollen in fall asthma in allergic patients. In addition, ragweed-allergic asthmatics appear not to have their symptoms at the time of maximum pollen load in the air. We believe that small-particle allergens other than ragweed pollen should be considered in most cases of all seasonal asthma.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy