We undertook a study to determine whether the apparent disparity between the dose of inhaled atropine required to inhibit the bronchoconstriction induced by inhaled methacholine and the dose required to inhibit the bronchoconstriction induced by eucapnic hyperpnea with cold air is a function of the route of administration of atropine. In six subjects with asthma, we constructed dose-response curves to inhaled methacholine and to eucapnic hyperpnea with cold air after treatment with inhaled atropine (0.05 mg delivered) and intravenous placebo, with inhaled placebo and intravenous atropine (0.5 mg injected), and with inhaled and intravenous placebos. Atropine by either route shifted the dose-response curves to both cold air and to methacholine to the right. In every subject, however, inhaled atropine caused a markedly greater rightward shift of the inhaled methacholine dose-response curve than did intravenous atropine, whereas inhaled and intravenous atropine had similar effects on the cold air dose-response curve. These findings suggest that the apparent disparity between the doses of atropine required to inhibit methacholine- and cold air-induced bronchoconstriction may be a function of the route of administration of atropine and thus does not imply a nonmuscarinic action of atropine. The findings support the view that cold air causes bronchoconstriction via muscarinic pathways.