The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of asthma among United Arab Emirates school children aged 6-14 years. A cross-sectional study of 850 school children living in both urban and rural areas (average age 9.36 +/- 2.11 years, 46.8% boys and 53.2% girls) was conducted using self-administered questionnaires between October 1992 and May 1993. The population sample had a high prevalence rate of diagnosed asthma (13.6%), breathlessness or tightness in chest (9.7%), allergic rhinitis (22.9%), and nocturnal cough (8.9%). Allergic rhinitis was the most frequently seen respiratory illness when compared to other respiratory symptoms. The frequency of asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema among parents reflected the same pattern as that seen in the children. Prevalence rate of asthma was not significantly higher in fathers (5.9%) than in mothers (5.3%). The differences between the sexes were not significant in any of the age group studied for any of the allergic conditions, except for diagnosed asthma in which the prevalence rate in males was significantly higher than that in females. On the whole, the prevalence rate of all the conditions increased with age. But the frequency of allergic rhinitis symptoms was significantly higher in mothers (16%) than in fathers (10.8%). These results are consistent with those obtained in neighbouring gulf countries and are higher than those of some developed countries, but the differences are not statistically significant.