In a 20-month period, 1,783 children seen in the pediatric outpatient department had blood cultures performed and 117 (6.5%) of these children had bacteremia. Two thirds of the isolates were Diplococcus pneumoniae and Hemophilus influenzae b. Ninety-three percent of children with H. influenzae b bacteremia and 20% of children with pneumococcal bacteremia had soft tissue involvement at the initial visit. Most children with positive blood cultures (102) were previously well and beyond the newborn period and many (46) had seemingly trivial illnesses initially: upper respiratory tract infection, fever of unknown origin, otitis media, and diarrhea. In the absence of soft tissue infection, the latter three diagnoses correlated best with bloodstream invasion. Nineteen children had persistent bacteremia and five developed soft tissue complications not noted initially. Two factors, age between 7 and 24 months and temperature between 39.4 and 40.6 C, showed increased specificity for bacteremia but were sensitive only for pneumococcal disease. A temperature larger than or equal to 40.5 C showed more specificity for bacteremia than lesser fevers. A white blood cell count greater than 20,000/cu mm was poorly sensitive, and pulmonary infiltrates were neither specific nor sensitive for positive blood cultures. Five bacteremic children had aseptic lymphocytosis in the cerebrospinal fluid. Two days of intravenous antibiotic therapy and eight days of oral therapy were adequate for pneumococcal bacteremia without soft tissue involvement. This therapy may not be without soft tissue involvement. This therapy may not be ideal, however, since other routes and duration of therapy were not evaluated.