The effects of oral midazolam or intramuscular atropine and pethidine used as premedication in two groups of 35 children over 5 years of age were studied. There was some evidence that the anxiolytic effect of midazolam was rather better than that of atropine plus pethidine, but, in other respects, subjective assessments in the two patient groups were similar. Intramuscular atropine caused tachycardia and subjective side-effects, nevertheless children appear to require anticholinergics during premedication because of excessive salivary secretion, especially during extubation. Oral midazolam is a new anxiolytic drug which can be used as an alternative to existing premedicant drugs, but, in children, it should still be combined with an anticholinergic agent. No correlation between serum levels of midazolam or atropine and their clinical effects was found.