Results of patch tests in 337 children aged 1 to 15 performed in our paediatric unit during the past 3 years have been analysed retrospectively in order to optimize the patch test series and to assess their relevance. This study represents the most important single-centre study reported so far over a short period. We found a positive patch test rate of 66%, with a peak incidence among children less than 3 years of age (88% versus 58.9%). The most common allergens were metals, especially nickel, fragrances and, less frequently, rubber chemicals. Concerning nickel, positive reactions rarely correlated with a relevant exposure and were difficult to interpret, especially in patients with atopic dermatitis, who are probably more likely to have irritant or false-positive reactions to metals. Based on the results and their relevance, we propose a shortened standard series of patch tests for paediatric patients.