The effects of an initial iv bolus of insulin upon plasma glucose, blood gases, and electrolytes were assessed in 19 children with 20 episodes of diabetic ketoacidosis treated by a continuous low-dose insulin infusion of 0.1 unit/kg/hour. An iv bolus of insulin administered prior to low-dose insulin infusion accelerated the decline of plasma glucose concentration during the first hour of treatment, but differences in decline of mean plasma glucose concentration were not apparent thereafter. The mean time required for attaining "normoglycemia" (250 mg/dl) was similar, whether or not the initial bolus of insulin was given, with a smooth and predictable correction of initial hyperglycemia in the majority of children. However, an accelerated response was more frequent in those patients with compensated metabolic acidosis, who received an initial iv bolus of insulin; those with more severe metabolic acidosis took longer to recover. The data suggest that an initial iv bolus of insulin may not be required nor desirable in the majority of children with diabetic ketoacidosis treated by a standard low-dose insulin infusion regimen.