It is now widely accepted that augmented levels of fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) reflect airway inflammation and the methodology has been optimised for potential clinical use. We were interested in investigating whether this measurement can be used as a tool to screen and identify school children with asthma. To do this, FeNO was measured using an on-line single exhalation analyser in 368 children aged 8-10 years in six Oxfordshire primary schools, by two investigators blinded to the disease status of the children. The children were then categorised into 'normal', 'atopic asthma', 'non-atopic asthma' and 'atopy only' groups, according to their responses to the ISAAC questionnaire and perusal of the children's medical records kept by their family practitioners. Increased levels of FeNO were found in 'atopic asthmatic', 'non-atopic asthmatics' and 'atopic only' groups (median values of 24.4, 7.8 and 15.3 ppb, respectively, compared to normal controls' of 6.9 ppb). Levels were increased in atopic children regardless of whether they had asthma and were significantly higher than non-atopic asthmatics. We conclude that FeNO measurement is not a useful tool for identifying children with asthma in the community, as increased levels did not discriminate between those with asthmatic and atopic symptoms.