We measured the microvascular response to histamine in guinea pig skin. Histamine (40 mg ml(-1)) was given either as a skin prick test or applied topically onto a skin window. The skin window was prepared by applying suction and gentle warming to the skin so that a blister was formed, and by removing the top of the blister. The microvascular response was measured as the accumulation of radiolabelled transferrin in the skin in vivo, reflecting a combination plasma exudation and vasodilatation. In the control (saline) challenge, the response was slightly greater in the skin window than after skin prick challenge and the scatter was larger. Histamine challenge resulted in a significant microvascular response with respect to the control situation when measured immediately after provocation for both challenge techniques. Ten minutes after challenge, a smaller response was measured, which was still significantly greater than control for the skin prick challenge, but not for topical provocation using the skin window technique. We conclude that the microvascular response to histamine after provocation with the skin prick technique is similar to that after topical provocation using the skin window technique. The skin window technique may have a lower sensitivity than the skin prick technique owing to a higher scatter in the control situation. This difference should be considered when performing and interpreting studies of the microvascular reaction in the skin.