Both obesity and asthma are highly prevalent, complex diseases modified by multiple factors. Genetic, developmental, lung mechanical, immunological and behavioural factors have all been suggested as playing a causal role between the two entities; however, their complex mechanistic interactions are still poorly understood and evidence of causality in children remains scant. Equally lacking is evidence of effective treatment strategies, despite the fact that imbalances at vulnerable phases in childhood can impact long-term health. This review is targeted at both clinicians frequently faced with the dilemma of how to investigate and treat the obese asthmatic child and researchers interested in the topic. Highlighting the breadth of the spectrum of factors involved, this review collates evidence regarding the investigation and treatment of asthma in obese children, particularly in comparison with current approaches in 'difficult-to-treat' childhood asthma. Finally, the authors propose hypotheses for future research from a systems-based perspective.