A coastal population mainly reactive to house dust mite was compared with an inland population mainly reactive to other allergens to investigate whether exposure to house dust mite plays a part in initiating childhood asthma. Respiratory symptoms, asthma, bronchial hyperresponsiveness, hay fever and atopy were all more common in the dry inland area than in the humid coastal area. In both areas 38% of children were atopic. Coastal children had more skin reactivity to house dust mites and inland children were more reactive to grass pollen extracts. The findings suggest that the clinical presentation of asthma may be related more to the total burden of aeroallergens than to exposure to a particular allergen.