Children with primary immunodeficiencies, sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis are at risk to develop invasive bacterial infections caused by respiratory tract pathogens, in particular Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Staphylococcus aureus. This review article evaluates the role of nasopharyngeal colonization by these pathogens in the high prevalence of respiratory and invasive infections in children with inherited disorders affecting the immune system or the respiratory tract. We conclude that respiratory and invasive diseases that occur in children with primary immunodeficiencies or sickle cell disease are probably a result of increased nasopharyngeal colonization rates compared with healthy children. However, when the inherited disorder is characterized by local airway abnormalities such as in cystic fibrosis, enhanced nasopharyngeal colonization does not seem to play a major role in invasive disease risk. As the evidence for the role of nasopharyngeal colonization in disease risk in these specific patient groups partly comes from experimental studies and animal models, longitudinal studies in children are needed. Detailed understanding of the effect of colonization on the development of respiratory and invasive infections in children with primary immunodeficiencies, sickle cell disease or cystic fibrosis provides a justification for the selective introduction of vaccination and prophylactic antibiotic treatment. Recommendations for the use of (preventive) therapeutic strategies in these patient groups taking into account disease-specific immunologic mechanisms underlying colonization and disease are described.