Asthma is one of the most common chronic illnesses in childhood. Increases in hospitalization rates have occurred in several countries. The cumulative risk of asthma requiring medical attention was 11.7% for males and 7.0% for females aged 0-4 in Manitoba, Canada, for the cohort of children born in 1984/1985. The cumulative risk of hospitalization for males was nearly twice that of females (2.1% vs. 1.1%). Disease onset was most likely at age 1 year. The risk of rehospitalization or return physician visit for asthma increased significantly with the number of prior hospitalizations and physician visits, respectively, which may reflect both the persistence of asthma and the difficulty of developing an effective disease management strategy.