Background: Asthma-like symptoms, methacholine hyperresponsiveness, use of inhaled steroids, airway inflammation, and increased tenascin expression in the reticular basement membrane have been reported in competitive cross-country skiers. Objective: To investigate the effect of inhaled budesonide, 400 μg twice daily, on indices of airway inflammation in ‘ski asthma’, defined as asthma-like symptoms within the previous year and bronchial hyperresponsiveness to methacholine. Methods: A randomised double-blind placebo-controlled parallel-group bronchial biopsy and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) study of 25 (19 male) competitive cross-country skiers (mean age 18 (16–20) years for a mean (range) treatment period of 22 (10–32) weeks over the competitive season. Results: No changes were seen regarding cellular inflammation in the bronchial mucosa or tenascin expression. In the BAL fluid, both groups had a significant decrease in activated T-suppressor (CD8) lymphocytes and an increase in macrophages, with no differences across the groups. Within the budesonide group, there was a decrease in IL2 receptor-activated T-helper lymphocytes and an improvement in FEV1. Asthma-like symptoms were unchanged in 17 (68%) skiers. Methacholine provocation test was negative in 15 subjects, and remained positive in 5 subjects in each group. The improvement in bronchial responsiveness occurred in both groups and was not accompanied by a decrease in cellular inflammation. Conclusions: We were unable to show any clear beneficial effect of budesonide in ‘ski asthma’. As changes in training intensity probably accounted for the spontaneous improvement in bronchial responsiveness, more attention should be directed at reducing environmental stress to the airways than at attempting pharmacological modulation of induced inflammatory changes.

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