We measured the temperature in the rectum and two esophageal sites (retrocardiac and retrotracheal) during exercise in eight asthmatic and six normal subjects while they breathed air at subfreezing, ambient, and body conditions. Various aspects of pulmonary mechanics were recorded before and after exercise. The asthmatic subjects developed the greatest airway obstruction following exercise with cold air and no response at body conditions. There were no changes in pulmonary mechanics in the postexercise period in the normal individuals with any of the inspired air conditions. Despite these divergent mechanical responses retrotracheal temperatures fell by the same magnitude below core values in both groups of subjects, indicating that identical degrees of airway cooling occurred. We conclude that rather than having a defect in the ability to condition inspired air, asthmatic subjects are more responsive to the effects of incompletely conditioned air.