Eighty-two children admitted to hospital with exacerbations of asthma were studied to determine how many were exposed to house dust mites at the time of admission and displayed immediate hypersensitivity to house dust mites. The concentration of house dust mite allergen (Der p I) was measured in dust obtained from the child's mattress, bedroom floor and living room floor. Sixty-two (75%) children admitted had been exposed to > 10 microg Der p I/g. Sixty-seven (82%) children were sensitive to house dust mite (RAST > or = 1 +, or weal > or = 3 mm): 49 (60%) children were both exposed and sensitive. In contrast in a control group of 44 children, 31 (70%) (n.s.) were exposed to > 10 microg Der p I/g, 10 (23%) (P<0.001) were sensitive to house dust mite, and 7 (16%) (P<0.001) were both exposed and sensitive. Seventy-three homes were revisited 6 months after the child's initial admission. During the preceding month 14 children had been readmitted, 12 were fully investigated; of these 10 were both sensitive to house dust mite and still exposed to > 10 microg Der p I/g. In contrast, of the remaining 62 children who were not readmitted, only 19 were both sensitive and still exposed to > 10 microg Der p I/g (P<0.001). In conclusion, the majority of children admitted to hospital with exacerbations of asthma were exposed to house dust mite allergen and were house dust mite sensitive. Further the results suggest that continued exposure to higher concentrations of mite allergen may be associated with the risk of readmission.