A national survey of 896 parents of children with asthma was performed and responses to 2 types of inquiry were compared: global assessment versus specific assessment of symptoms. Almost all parents, 860 (96%), described their child's asthma as under "good control'' when asked a global assessment question. However, 306 (34%)-when asked specific questions-actually described poor asthma control with frequent symptoms. Medicaid insurance (OR: 1.59; 95% CI: 1.03, 2.44) and parental smoking (OR: 1.60; 95% CI: 1.06, 2.43) increased the likelihood that parents' responses would be at risk for misinterpretation. Increased education (OR 0.41: 95% CI: 0.18, 0.91) and English as the primary language (OR 0.39; 95% CI 0.16, 0.96) were associated with decreased likelihood of misinterpretation. Vague, global assessment questions lead to incomplete clinical information and places the patient at risk for inadequate asthma therapy. A better approach is to use specific questions to determine the frequency of daytime or nighttime symptoms.