We surveyed 311 children with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus to evaluate the frequency and characteristics of those children experiencing severe hypoglycemia (defined by an episode of coma, convulsion, or both). The children and their parents completed a questionnaire, and we reviewed the hospital records to confirm reported episodes. Ninety-seven (31%) reported severe hypoglycemia, and a further 50 (16%) reported moderate hypoglycemia requiring the assistance of another person but not resulting in coma or convulsion. In 164 children (53%) there was no history of either moderate or severe hypoglycemia. Sixty-nine (22%) reported the occurrence of more than one severe hypoglycemic episode (range 2 to 20); 52 (16%) reported such an event in a single year. A total of 285 episodes were reported, 39% during sleep and 61% while awake. Children reporting such events tended to have diabetes of longer duration and be younger at the time of the first episode. Hemoglobin A1c concentration at the time closest to the severe episode was significantly lower than in children reporting no hypoglycemia. All families had been taught to use glucagon to reverse severe hypoglycemia at home, but it was available in only 80 of the 97 homes and used in only 30. These data suggest that severe hypoglycemia is common in children with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus who are treated conventionally. Greater vigilance and education are required both to prevent and to treat severe hypoglycemia in children with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.