The objectives of this study is to compile current knowledge about asthma control in children in relation to goals proposed in international guidelines, to elucidate the factors associated with insufficient asthma control and to address the implications for clinical practice. Review of recent worldwide large population epidemiological surveys and clinical asthma studies of more than 20,000 children are the methods used in this study. The studies report high frequencies of sleep disturbances, emergency visits, school absence and limitations of physical activity due to asthma. Only a small percentage of children with asthma reach the goals of good asthma control set out by Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). There is evidence of underuse of inhaled corticosteroids even in children with moderate or severe persistent asthma and over-reliance on short-acting beta(2)-agonist rescue medication. Both parents and physicians generally overestimate asthma control and have low expectations about the level of achievable control. Many children with asthma are not being managed in accordance with guideline recommendations, and asthma management practices vary widely between countries. Asthma control falls short of guideline recommendations in large proportions of children with asthma worldwide. Simple methods for assessing asthma control in clinical practice are needed. Treatment goals based on raised expectations should be established in partnership with the asthmatic child and the parents. Effective anti-inflammatory treatment should be used more frequently, and patients should be reviewed regularly.