Viral respiratory infections are closely associated with wheezing illnesses and exacerbations of asthma throughout childhood, and yet there are a number of remaining questions pertaining to the specific nature of this relationship. Infection with an expanding list of respiratory viruses is an important cause of acute wheezing in infancy, and viruses are detected in most exacerbations of asthma throughout childhood. Furthermore, infants who develop severe viral respiratory infections are more likely to have asthma later in childhood. There has been progress in understanding the pathogenesis of viral respiratory illnesses, and this has led to new insights into how these processes might differ in asthma. Several host factors, including respiratory allergy and virus-induced interferon responses, modify the risk of virus-induced wheezing. In the absence of effective antiviral therapies, treatment of virus-induced wheezing and exacerbations of asthma can be challenging, and studies evaluating current treatment strategies are reviewed. Understanding the host-pathogen interactions that determine the severity of respiratory illnesses and long-term sequelae is likely to be of great help in identifying at-risk individuals, and in designing new and more effective treatments.