We assessed the relationship between very low birth weight (VLBW) (or= 9 days was the only remaining significant risk factor for a history of asthma (adjusted OR 6.7, 95%CI 1.0-44). The VLBW children who required mechanical ventilation during the neonatal period were more likely to have bronchial hyperresponsiveness than those not requiring mechanical ventilation (60% vs. 28%, p = 0.050). The spirometric values were similar among the VLBW and the term children at 12 years. Very low birth weight was not significantly related to allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, eczema or positive skin prick tests. Furthermore, the levels of IL-4, IL-5 and IFN-gamma in stimulated cell cultures were similar in the VLBW and the term children. A history of asthma by 12 years of age was twice as common among the VLBW as the term children, and neonatal oxygen supplementation seemed to be associated with the increased risk. Furthermore, mechanical ventilation during the neonatal period was associated with bronchial hyperresponsiveness at age 12. Very low birth weight per se was not, however, related to atopy.