BACKGROUND: Re-admissions to hospital in childhood asthma are common with studies reporting that 25% or more of children will be re-admitted within a year. There is a need for strategies to reduce re-admissions. METHODS: A prospective randomised control study of an asthma home management training programme was performed in children aged two years or over admitted with acute asthma. Two hundred and one children were randomised at admission to either an intervention group (n = 96) which received the teaching programme or a control group (n = 105). A nurse-led teaching programme used the current attack as a model for the management of future attacks and included discussion, written information, subsequent follow up and telephone advice aimed at developing and reinforcing individualised asthma management plans. Parents were also provided with a course of oral steroids and guidance on when to start them. RESULTS: The groups were similar in degree of social deprivation, length of stay, number of previous admissions, acute asthma treatment, and asthma treatment at discharge. Subsequent re-admissions were significantly reduced in the intervention group from 25% to 8% in individual follow up periods that ranged from two to 14 months (chi 2 = 9.63; p = 0.002). This reduction was not accompanied by any increase in subsequent emergency room attendances nor, in the short term, by any increase in urgent community asthma treatment. The intervention group also showed significant reductions in day and night morbidity 3-4 weeks after admission to hospital. CONCLUSIONS: A nurse-led asthma home management training programme administered during a hospital admission can significantly reduce subsequent admissions to hospital for asthma. Acute hospitalisation may be a particularly effective time to deliver home management training.