The long-term solution to the asthma epidemic is thought to be prevention, and not treatment of established disease. Atopic asthma arises from gene-environment interactions, which mainly take place during a short period in prenatal and postnatal development. These interactions are not completely understood, and hence primary prevention remains an elusive goal. We argue that primary-care physicians, paediatricians, and specialists lack knowledge of the role of atopy in early life in the development of persistent asthma in children. In this review, we discuss how early identification of children at high risk is feasible on the basis of available technology and important for potential benefits to the children. Identification of an asthmatic child's atopic status in early life has practical clinical and prognostic implications, and sets the basis for future preventative strategies.