The effect of pre-operative intake of oral water and ranitidine on gastric fluid volume and pH was studied in 75 children of American Society of Anesthetists (ASA) grade I and grade II undergoing elective surgery. Group I patients fasted from midnight and acted as control. Group II patients received 5 ml/kg plain water orally 3 hours before surgery. Group III children received 5 ml/kg of plain water and 2 mg/kg of ranitidine orally 3 hours before surgery. Mean volume of gastric aspirate was comparable in all 3 groups (p > 0.05). Mean pH was significantly higher in ranitidine treated patients (5.12 +/- 1.73) as compared to non-ranitidine treated patients (2.26 +/- 0.57 and 2.53 +/ 0.79 in group I and group II respectively). Number of patients at risk (pH < or = 2.5 and volume > or = 0.4 ml/kg) was not significantly different in group I and group II. Mean thirst and behaviour scores were significantly higher in fluid treated patients (groups II and III) as compared to control (p < 0.01). To conclude, administration of pre-operative water (5 ml/kg) along with ranitidine (2 mg/kg) favourably modifies gastric fluid volume and pH, improves patient behaviour and minimises the number of patients at risk of aspiration pneumonitis, should the child aspirate.