There is increasing recognition that exposures to infectious agents evoke fundamental effects on the development and behaviour of the immune system. Moreover, where infections (especially parasitic infections) have declined, immune responses appear to be increasingly prone to hyperactivity. For example, epidemiological studies of parasite-endemic areas indicate that prenatal or early-life experience of infections can imprint an individual's immunological reactivity. However, the ability of helminths to dampen pathology in established inflammatory diseases implies that they can have therapeutic effects even if the immune system has developed in a low-infection setting. With recent investigations of how parasites are able to modulate host immune pathology at the level of individual parasite molecules and host cell populations, we are now able to dissect the nature of the host-parasite interaction at both the initiation and recall phases of the immune response. Thus the question remains - is the influence of parasites on immunity one that acts primarily in early life, and at initiation of the immune response, or in adulthood and when recall responses occur? In short, parasite immunosuppression - sooner or later?