Differential cell counts of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) have been reported in normal children but few data on cellular profiles in bronchial diseases in childhood are available. We determined the BAL cell profiles of 72 children divided into 5 groups: asthma (n = 14), chronic cough (n = 12), infantile wheeze (n = 26), cystic fibrosis (n = 10), and control (n = 10). The highest total cell, eosinophil, and neutrophil counts were found in children with cystic fibrosis. The cell profile of children with chronic cough was similar to that of control children. Asthma and infantile wheeze were characterized by a high median ratio of eosinophils (3%) and neutrophils (12%), respectively. In both diseases, epithelial shedding was suggested by an elevated epithelial cell count, 13.5 and 12%, respectively. Lymphocyte subset analysis showed a higher proportion of CD8 cells (58 versus 40%) and therefore a lower CD4/CD8 ratio (0.266 versus 0. 455) in children with asthma compared with infantile wheezers (p = 0. 02). Irrespective of the presence or absence of radiological abnormalities, a proportion of neutrophils > 10%, was found in one-third of the children with asthma and in half of the infantile wheezers, and was related to symptom severity. We suggest that neutrophil-mediated inflammation, with or without bacterial infection, may contribute to symptoms of asthma in childhood. Chronic cough, however, is not associated with the cell profiles suggestive of asthma and in isolation should not be treated with prophylactic antiasthma drugs.