While there is no question that children dislike needles, there are very little data available on the occurrence of high levels of distress experienced by children undergoing routine venipunctures. To provide some insight into this problem, trained observers evaluated distress in 223 different children and adolescents undergoing this procedure. An observational distress scale of 1 to 5 was developed; 1 = calm, 2 = timid/nervous, 3 = serious distress, but still under control, 4 = serious distress with loss of control, and 5 = panic. We observed a strong relation between distress and age but not between distress and gender. During the actual venipuncture, half the subjects (113/223) were scored as having high levels of distress (3 or more). Our subjects were also grouped into three age ranges: toddlers; 2 1/2 to 6 years, N = 70; preadolescents; 7 to 12 years, N = 55; and adolescents; 12 years and older, N = 98. The percent of subjects experiencing high levels of distress for each age group were: 83%, 51%, and 28%, respectively. We conclude that for venipunctures: 1) high levels of distress are common, and 2) age and not gender correlates with distress. Other correlations are discussed. Toddlers and pre-adolescents should be the targets for new interventions to reduce distress.