Asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood and, in the latter part of the 20th century, reached epidemic proportions. Asthma is generally believed to result from gene-environment interactions. There is consensus that a 'window of opportunity' exists during pregnancy and early in life when environmental factors may influence its development. We review multiple environmental, biologic and sociologic factors that may be important in the development of asthma. Meta-analyses of studies have demonstrated that multifaceted interventions are required in order to develop asthma prevention. Multifaceted allergen reduction studies have shown clinical benefits. Asthma represents a dysfunctional interaction with our genes and the environment to which they are exposed, especially in fetal and early infant life. The increasing prevalence of asthma also may be an indication of increased population risk for the development of other chronic non-communicable autoimmune diseases. This review will focus on the factors which may be important in the primary prevention of asthma. Better understanding of the complex gene-environment interactions involved in the development of asthma will provide insight into personalized interventions for asthma prevention.