A randomised controlled study of an educational programme for children with asthma and their families was carried out by community child health nurses. Three hundred and sixty eight children aged 2 to 14 years were enrolled in the study after admission to hospital for asthma. The intervention group was visited monthly by a nurse for six months. The subjects were assessed six months later by a postal, self administered questionnaire. European children in the intervention group were taking significantly more drugs for the treatment of asthma six months after the index admission to hospital than those in the control group (mean (SD) intake 2.7 (1.1) v 2.1 (1.0), respectively). In particular, they were using more theophylline (56.6% v 37.0%) and inhaled steroids (34.9% v 21.0%). There was no difference between the groups for parental reports of improvement, of missed schooling, and in severe attacks of asthma of not responding to the usual treatment at home. European children in the intervention group used the hospital services for severe attacks of asthma more than controls (34.2% v 10.5%). There were more re-admissions in the European intervention group in the subsequent six months after the index admission than in the control group (mean (SD) 0.51 (0.97) v 0.29 (0.65). Re-admission continued to be higher in the 12 months after the nurse had stopped visiting (0.81 (1.65) v 0.25 (0.65]. There was no difference in the duration of hospital stay between the intervention and control groups. For Polynesian children there was no difference between the groups for any outcome measures.