Sensory Hyperreactivity and Chemical Sensitivity, Tilia
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Latest update: 2011-02-27

Capsaicin inhalation test for identification of sensory hyperreactivity

Authors: Johansson A, Löwhagen O, Millqvist E, Bende M

Journal: Respir Med. 2002 Sep;96(9):731-5

BACKGROUND: Patients with upper and lower airway symptoms and with pronounced sensitivity to chemical odours, such as perfumes, flower scents and tobacco smoke, have been suggested to have sensory hyperreactivity (SHR). The symptoms have been difficult to identify with physiological measurements and the effects of various medications are doubtful. However, these patients have been found to be more sensitive to inhalation of capsaicin than healthy people. The aim of this study was to establish limit values with the capsaicin inhalation test in patients with SHR.
METHODS: Ninety-five consecutive patients with upper and lower airway problems, who were admitted for allergy testing, underwent a capsaicin inhalation test with three different concentrations. The number of coughs was registered during each challenge. Score systems were used for symptoms and influence on social life of sensitivity to odours. In relation to scored symptoms, the patients were grouped as SHR or not, and compared with 73 healthy controls.
RESULTS: All patients and controls coughed on capsaicin in a dose-dependent manner. Symptom score of odour sensitivity in patients was positively correlated to the response of the test. Out of 95 patients, 15 (16%) were scored to SHR. Patients with SHR reacted more to the capsaicin inhalation test than the other patients and the healthy controls. The limit values for a positive capsaicin inhalation test for the SHR were determined to be 10, 35 and 55 coughs at 0.4, 2.0 and 10 microM capsaicin, respectively.
CONCLUSION: The capsaicin inhalation test well reflects the degree of airway sensitivity to chemicals and to what extent the social life is influenced. The cut-off values of the test can distinguish patients with pronounced sensitivity to odours.

PMID: 12243320 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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