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Methacholine challenge

Your child is scheduled for a methacholine challenge test at:

Children's - Minneapolis
Special Diagnostics – 1st floor
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404
Phone: 612-813-6966

Date: _________________________________

Test time: _________________________________

Check-in time: _________________________________

Please bring a list of your child's medicines and your insurance card with you. If you have questions about your insurance coverage for these services, or any special referral requirements, please contact your insurance company directly. They will advise you about your plan's coverage.

What is a methacholine challenge?

A methacholine challenge is a type of breathing test that can help the doctor decide if your child has asthma or exercised induced asthma (EIA).

Methacholine is a medicine that may constrict the airways in the lungs when inhaled. The test is painless and safe.

Can I be with my child during the test?

In most cases we recommend you do not stay in the room during testing. It has been found that most children perform the test better one-on-one with the technician.

What should we do before the test?

Read and discuss this information with your child. Tell your child the test does not hurt.

Explain how the test is done, especially what your child will see, hear, and feel. Answer as many questions as you can.

Your child's medicines will be reviewed with you when you schedule the test. If your child is taking medicines for breathing, they must be stopped as directed, or they can interfere with the test. (Refer to the chart below.) However, if your child is wheezing, coughing, or having trouble breathing on the day of the test, give the prescribed medicine and call Pulmonary Diagnostics to reschedule the test.

How is the test done?

The technician will teach your child a few different ways of breathing. First, your child's baseline lung function will be tested. During this part of the test your child will blow into a tube, using effort as if blowing out birthday candles.

Next your child will breathe methacholine through a nebulizer. The air will not feel different on your child's throat or mouth.
After breathing in the methacholine, your child will repeat part of the earlier tests to check for any change.

Depending on the result of this test, more doses of methacholine may be given by nebulizer and further testing may be done. If the test results change by 20% or more, no more methacholine will be given.

Your child will then be given a bronchodilator (medicine that helps open the small airways in the lungs) either by inhaler or nebulizer. The technician will then have your child repeat the first breathing test to check for any change with the bronchodilator.

What can I expect after the test?

After the test, your child may use his or her medicines as prescribed. Your doctor will discuss the test results with you.


This sheet is not specific to your child, but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call Pulmonary Diagnostics at 612-813-6966.

Stopping medicines before the methacholine challenge

If your child is taking this medicine Stop giving it this long before the test

quick-acting bronchodilators, such as:

  • albuterol (Proventil®, Ventolin®)
  • levalbuterol (Xopenex®)
  • pirbuterol (Maxair®)
  • terbutaline (Brethair, Brethine®)
at least 8 hours

long-acting bronchodilators, such as:

  • albuterol (Proventil® Repetabs, Volmax®)
  • fomoterol (Foradil®)
  • salmeterol (Serevent®)
  • fluticisone / salmeterol products (Advair®)
  • budesonide / formoterol products (Symbicort®)
24 hours

inhaled corticosteroids, such as:

  • beclomethasone (QVAR®)
  • budesonide (Pulmicort®)
  • fluticisone (Flovent®)
  • mometasone (Azmanex®)
  • triamcinolone (Azmacort®)
24 hours
  • cromolyn sodium (Intal®)
  • nedocromil (Tilade®)
48 hours
 antihistamines, such as:
  • cetirizine (Zytrec®)
  • fexofenadine (Allegra®)
  • loratadine (Claritin®)
24 hours
  • theophylline (many brands)
12 hours
  •  extended release theophylline
48 hours
  • ipratoprium bromide (Atrovent®)
  • ipratoprium/albuterol (Combivent®)
24 hours
  • montelukast (Singulair®)
  • zafirlukast (Accolate®)
  • zileuton (Zyflo®)
24 hours

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Patient/Family Education
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Last reviewed 8/2015 ©Copyright

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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