To investigate general practitioners' drug prescribing patterns for children (0-12 y), an observational, cross-sectional study was conducted in Western Norway. Seven thousand, two hundred and twenty-nine GP-patient contacts during which 5222 drugs were prescribed, were included for analysis. The highest prescribing rates were for boys < 2 y (82.1 prescriptions per 100 contacts). Two-thirds of all prescriptions were for drugs in main groups respiratory system or systemic anti-infectives. The 20 most commonly prescribed agents comprised 75% of all prescriptions. The 20 most frequently recorded diagnoses for prescribing comprised 81% of all. Phenoxymethylpenicillin was the most frequently prescribed antibiotic for otitis, tonsillitis and sinusitis, while erythromycin was used most often for bronchitis and pneumonia. Antibiotics were prescribed in more than 8/10 contacts for tonsillitis, sinusitis, acute bronchitis and pneumonia, and in two-thirds of all contacts for urinary tract infections. Sixty-five percent of the antibiotic prescriptions for urinary tract infections were for co-trimoxazole.