Eutectic mixture of local anaesthetics (EMLA) cream with Tegaderm was compared with pre-packaged EMLA patch with regard to analgesic effect, adhesiveness and local reactions during venepuncture in 178 children from three to ten years. One EMLA patch, or half the contents of a 5 g tube of EMLA cream plus Tegaderm was applied to the dorsum of one hand or antecubital fossa for a minimum of 60 min before venepuncture. The subject and observer assessed the degree of pain on a three-point verbal rating scale. The adhesion of the patch vs Tegaderm to the skin and local reactions were recorded. There was no difference between the two groups in pain associated with venepuncture; 95% of the EMLA patch group and 94% of the EMLA cream group reported no or slight pain. There was no difference between the two treatment groups in terms of overall local reactions. The patch was less adhesive (P < 0.001), but this had no apparent influence on its effectiveness. In conclusion, EMLA patch is equivalent to 5% EMLA cream (2.5 g) in cutaneous pain relief when used for venepuncture in children.