We assessed the relationship of antecedent acute respiratory illness to the occurrence of airway responsiveness and atopy in a population-based cohort of 194 children 12 to 16 yr of age from East Boston, Massachusetts. A history of croup or bronchiolitis as reported by their parents was determined at study onset when the children were 5 to 9 yr of age. During the second and third years of the study, acute respiratory illness was assessed. Five years after the prospective respiratory illness assessment, airway responsiveness was evaluated with eucapneic hyperpnea to subfreezing air, and atopy was evaluated with skin tests to 4 environmental antigens. Both a prior history of croup of bronchiolitis (OR = 2.29, p = 0.04) and greater than 2 acute lower respiratory illnesses (OR = 3.72, p = 0.012) were associated with increased levels of airway responsiveness. Neither index of respiratory illness experience was related to the presence of atopy. However, maternal cigarette smoking was significantly associated with atopy in these children (OR = 2.24, p = 0.02). These data suggest that respiratory illness in early life is associated with airway hyperresponsiveness as measured later in childhood. The data further suggest the need for longitudinal studies to better assess the etiologic role of these potential risk factors.