To investigate the factors associated with asthma in school children, a case-control study of 203 asthmatic and 203 non-asthmatic children (103 males and 100 females in each group) aged 6 to 18 years, was organized during the period September 1992 to May 1993 in Al Ain city, United Arab Emirates. Cases comprised known asthmatic children who were regularly receiving medication for asthma and were confirmed as asthmatics by a physician. Cases and controls were matched by age and sex. A questionnaire was used to obtain information about respiratory illnesses (pneumonia, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, sinusitis and croup); atopy (allergic rhinitis and atopic dermatitis) and familial allergic diseases (parental asthma and atopy). Information about socioeconomic status and limitations to children as a result of asthma were also obtained. Logistic regression analysis showed that bronchitis, atopy (allergic rhinitis and atopic dermatitis), croup, parental asthma and parental atopic dermatitis were significant risk factors for childhood asthma after adjusting for other confounding covariates. The model also showed that parental asthma (p < 0.0001) is much more influential than parental atopic dermatitis (p = 0.01) as a risk factor for asthma. Although pneumonia and sinusitis were significant risk factors when analyzed univariately, they were not significant after adjusting for other covariates. Bronchiolitis, smoking and socioeconomic status were beyond the reach of statistical significance as risk factors to asthma in our sample.