To investigate potential risk factors for clinical atopy in childhood, we obtained cross-sectional data from a cohort of 1376 8-year-old pupils. Parental atopy (hay fever, asthma, eczema), gestational age, maternal smoking habits, and the child's history of asthma, hay fever, and eczema were ascertained by questionnaire. Combining the history and the result of a skin prick test using seven aeroallergens, we defined the child's atopic diseases. Of the population evaluated, 25.4% were categorized as atopic (10.2% allergic asthma, 17.3% eczema, 6.9% hay fever). As compared with the clear nonatopics (40.2%), parental atopic diseases were more prevalent in each of the atopic groups. Significant associations of the parents' and child's disease were obvious for eczema and hay fever. Low gestational age (LGA) was more frequent in children with any atopy or with an allergic asthma (odds ratio (OR) 1.7; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.02-2.97; OR 2.8; 95% CI 1.5-5.4). Hay fever and allergic asthma occurred less frequently in girls (OR 0.5; 95% confidence interval 0.3-0.8; OR 0.6; 95% CI 0.4-0.9). In conclusion, our data underline the importance of parental atopy for the clinical outcome in the offspring. In addition, LGA appears to be a risk factor for allergic asthma and for general atopy in later life.