Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Respiratory symptoms and bronchial reactivity: identification of a syndrome and its relation to asthma.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986; 293 doi: (Published 30 August 1986) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986;293:525
  1. A K Mortagy,
  2. J B Howell,
  3. W E Waters


    Two postal questionnaire surveys were carried out among the adult population of Southampton aimed at clarifying the diagnostic criteria for asthma (study 1) and at testing the validity of symptoms so identified as diagnostic of bronchial hyper-reactivity (study 2). The questionnaires asked about respiratory symptoms and included three questions thought likely to disclose increased bronchial reactivity. Laboratory measurements on subsamples of respondents included spirometry and bronchial challenge with increasing doses of histamine till a concentration was reached provoking a fall of more than 20% (PC greater than 20) in forced expiratory volume in one second. In the first study no normal subject (that is, one who did not report shortness of breath or wheezing on the questionnaire) had a PC greater than 20 below 0.5 g/l. Of 51 subjects who reported shortness of breath or wheezing, or both, nine had a cluster of abnormalities consisting of one or more symptoms of bronchial irritability, nocturnal dyspnoea, and prolonged morning tightness together with PC greater than 20 values of 0.5 g/l or less. These symptoms in conjunction with a low PC greater than 20 were termed the bronchial irritability syndrome. In the second study bronchial challenge confirmed the close association of these symptoms with bronchial hyper-reactivity, all other subjects being less reactive to histamine. Only 27% of subjects with symptoms of the bronchial irritability syndrome had been diagnosed as asthmatic by their general practitioners. The bronchial irritability syndrome is a definable entity for epidemiological study and patient care.