Topical anesthesia of the respiratory tract for fibreoptic bronchoscopy was compared, in a single-blind study, inhaled from a simple and inexpensive jet nebuliser, administered by cricothyroid injection or by a 'spray-as-you-go technique'. Each technique was supplemented by spraying lignocaine through the fibrescope and intravenous fentanyl-droperidol sedation. Inhaled nebulisation was successfully used for 96% (46 of 48) of patients, was safe, effective and acceptable to the patient and bronchoscopist. The cricothyroid injection method produced better conditions than nebulisation in patients who had diagnostic bronchoscopy. The nebuliser technique is as satisfactory as the spraying technique in patients for diagnostic bronchial lavage in whom bleeding from a cricothyroid puncture is unacceptable. Patients who used the nebuliser were more satisfied. This technique may also be a useful method for 'awake' intubation.