The effect of oral premedication was investigated in a double-blind, randomised trial in 85 children undergoing tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy. Orally administered midazolam 0.5 mg.kg-1 given 30 min pre-operatively was compared with trimeprazine 2 mg.kg-1 given 90 min pre-operatively and a placebo preparation. Compliance, sedation and ease of induction were assessed as were the duration and quality of recovery. Following premedication with midazolam none of the patients was anxious, crying or distressed on leaving the ward, compared with 2/28 in the trimeprazine group and 5/28 in the placebo group (p = 0.0007). More patients were calm and quiet on arrival in the anaesthetic room following midazolam than following trimeprazine, with both premedicant agents comparing favourably with placebo. There was no significant difference between the three groups in the time to recovery or the sedation score on discharge to the ward. Midazolam is a safe and effective oral premedicant for children.