The epidemiological findings in 107 patients admitted to Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, Cape Town, between 1976 and 1987 with a diagnosis of near-drowning are reported. Of these patients, 77% were less than 5 years of age (ratio of boys to girls 2.1:1) and 46% of accidents occurred in swimming pools, 18% in buckets and only 9% in the sea. The high percentage of bucket near-drownings is unique in published medical reports; this appears prevalent in socially disadvantaged communities. Seventy-six per cent of the children were normal on discharge from hospital, 12% died and 6% had neurological damage. In 6% the final outcome was not known. These results are in keeping with other hospital-based studies. Preventive strategies are discussed and the need for further research highlighted.