Trials should be launched into aggressive therapies against childhood eczema in a bid to reduce increasing incidents of asthma in adults.
The study, published online in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, was conducted by the University of Melbourne, Monash University and Menzies Research Institute in Tasmania.
Researchers followed more than 8,500 people aged seven to 44 who are part of the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study.
Lead author John Burgess, from the University of Melbourne, said the study is the first to demonstrate an association between childhood eczema and asthma in middle age.
The study found people who had childhood eczema were not only more likely to develop asthma in younger life, but also new-onset asthma later in life or to have asthma persist from childhood into middle age.
It said the risk of someone developing asthma in adulthood was increased if the subject suffered from childhood eczema.
Dr Burgess said: "The incidence of asthma in people from the ages of 8 to 44 who had childhood eczema, was nearly double that of people who had never had eczema."
He added that the findings also back the idea of the "atopic march", in which eczema is often the first step in an allergic process that leads on to asthma or hayfever in later life.