Many important human diseases, such as asthma, have their developmental origins in early life. Respiratory infections in particular may alter the course of asthma and may either protect against or promote the development of this disease. It is likely that the nature of the effects depends on the type and age of infection and is determined by the impact of infection on the immune and respiratory systems. Immunity in early life is plastic and can be moulded by antigen encounter, which may enhance or reinforce the asthmatic phenotype of early life, or induce protective responses. Chlamydial respiratory infections have specific effects and may increase asthma severity in early life by promoting systemic interleukin 13 responses and causing permanent changes in lung structure. Respiratory viral infections, such as those of respiratory syncytial virus and rhinovirus, promote pro-asthmatic responses in early life that contribute to the induction of asthma. By contrast, probiotics or infection or exposure to certain bacteria, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, may have protective effects in asthma by increasing the numbers and activity of regulatory T cells. Here, we review the impact of infections on the developmental origins of asthma. Understanding these effects may lead to new therapeutic approaches for asthma that either target deleterious infections or utilize beneficial ones.