Trends in rates of asthma admissions among children have shown a variety of patterns in different countries in the last decades. We undertook the present study to determine the time trends in asthma admissions and readmissions of children in Athens, Greece. Data were obtained retrospectively from hospital registries of the three main children's hospitals in Athens from 1978 to 2000. Children admitted with the diagnoses of asthma, asthmatic bronchitis or wheezy bronchitis were included. Hospital admission rate for asthma among children 0-14 yr from 1978 to 2000 rose by 271% (p <0.001). The rise in rates among those aged 0-4 and 5-15 yr were 250% and 276%, respectively. The mean annual increase in admission rate was 12.2% for 1978-1987, 4.7% for 1988-1993 and 0.6% for 1994-2000. The readmission rate among children 0-14 yr was increased from 15.3% to 23.3%. A positive correlation between admission and readmission rates in all age groups was observed. In conclusion, our findings show an increase in the childhood asthma admission rate in Athens in late 1970's and during the 1980's, which has decelerated in the 1990's, particularly in the second-half of the decade. The readmission rate paralleled that of admissions over the entire study period.