Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) represent a diverse family of cells of the innate immune system, which play an important role in regulation of tissue homeostasis, immunity and inflammation. Emerging evidence has highlighted the importance of ILCs in both protective immunity to respiratory infections and their pathological roles in the lungs. Therefore, the aim of this review is to summarize the current knowledge, interpret and integrate it into broader perspective, enabling greater insight into the role of ILCs in respiratory diseases. Areas covered: In this review we highlighted the role of ILCs in the lungs, citing the most recent studies in this area. PubMed searches (2004- July 2017) were conducted using the term 'innate lymphoid cells respiratory viral infections' in combination with other relevant terms including various respiratory viruses. Expert commentary: Since studies of ILCs have opened new areas of investigation, understanding the role of ILCs in respiratory infections may help to clarify the mechanisms underlying viral-induced exacerbations of lung diseases, providing the basis for novel therapeutic strategies. Potential therapeutic targets have already been identified. So far, the most promising strategy is cytokine-targeting, although further clinical trials are needed to verify its effectiveness.