The Reye's syndrome (RS) surveillance scheme for the British Isles, jointly organised by the British Paediatric Association and the PHLS Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, was established in 1981. In the ten years that have followed, there has been a gradual decline in the number, and the age, of cases reported. However, the proportion of cases whose diagnosis was subsequently revised to that of an inherited metabolic disorder, has increased. These trends have been influenced by the change from 'passive' to 'active' case ascertainment in 1986; the aspirin warning issued by the Committee on Safety of Medicines in June 1986; the 1989 influenza epidemic; and the increasing awareness of conditions that mimic RS, particularly inherited metabolic disorders involving defects of fatty acid oxidation. The cases reported in 1990/91 showed the lowest annual incidence recorded so far and a median age of less than ten months (compared with 15 months in the first six years of surveillance). There was a reduction in the case fatality rate in 1990/91 (although still high at 38%) but it is of concern that two children had had pre-admission exposure to aspirin. Parents should be kept aware of the dangers of giving aspirin preparations to children with feverish illnesses.