Summary Epigenetic mechanisms, defined as changes in phenotype or gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence, have been proposed to constitute a link between genetic and environmental factors that affect complex diseases. Recent studies show that DNA methylation, one of the key epigenetic mechanisms, is altered in children exposed to air pollutants and environmental tobacco smoke early in life. Several candidate gene studies on epigenetics have been published to date, but it is only recently that global methylation analyses have been performed for respiratory disorders such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, large-scale studies with adequate power are yet to be presented in children, and implications for clinical use remain to be evaluated. In this review, we summarize the recent advances in epigenetics and respiratory disorders in children, with a main focus on methodological challenges and analyses related to phenotype and exposure using global methylation approaches.