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OBJECTIVE--To investigate the incidence of difficulties associated with parental presence during the induction of anaesthesia in children and the influence of premedication with special reference to vomiting after papaveretum. DESIGN--Mixed factual and multiple choice questionnaire completed by medical and nursing staff and parents during and after admission. SETTING--Teaching hospital with regional paediatric general surgical unit where parental presence during induction of anaesthesia is long established. PATIENTS--151 Children aged 1-14 years who had not previously undergone surgery attending with parents for day stay general surgical procedures. INTERVENTION--Children were randomly allocated to receive no premedication (group 1), oral diazepam elixir (0.3 mg/kg) (group 2), or intramuscular papaveretum with hyoscine (0.3 mg/kg with 0.006 mg/kg) (group 3). No other modification to established day stay routine was made. RESULTS--No major problems were associated with the presence of parents during the induction of anaesthesia. Only 10 of the 141 parents who accompanied their child caused some difficulty, and five became distressed. Premedication with both diazepam and papaveretum resulted in sedation but did not ease induction of anaesthesia. Papaveretum greatly reduced pain and distress immediately after the operation, pain and discomfort being observed in only 15% of children (7/48) compared with 66% (27/41) in group 1 and 49% (22/45) in group 2. Papaveretum, however, must be given intramuscularly, and nurses observed that the children preferred being given premedication orally to intramuscularly. In addition, the incidences of nausea and vomiting were significantly higher in the postoperative ward and at home with papaveretum, although no patient who had been given the drug was nauseous or vomited in the recovery area. The incidences of nausea in group 3 were 62% (31/50) and 57% (27/47) in the postoperative ward and at home, respectively, v 21% (7/33) and 14% (4/29) in group 1 and 13% (5/38) and 14% (5/37) in group 2; the incidences of vomiting in group 3 were 60% and 43% in the postoperative ward and at home, respectively, v 18% and 7% in group 1 and 11% and 11% in group 2. Finally, neither the administration or otherwise of premedication nor the drug given affected the children's or parents' perception of day care surgery. CONCLUSIONS--Difficulties with parents in anaesthetic rooms were not common or severe. Premedication provides preoperative sedation and papaveretum improves the immediate postoperative course but the incidences of nausea and vomiting after operation are higher with its use than without.