The disposition of salicylic acid and salicyluric acid was studied in 57 Ethiopian children of varying nutritional status after oral administration of sodium salicylate in single doses of either 12.5 or 25 mg/kg. There was no apparent influence of nutritional status on oral salicylate disposition when related to total plasma concentrations. Unbound concentrations were predicted from total plasma concentrations on the basis of a single time point determination of protein binding in each individual, according to a Scatchard model. Areas under the unbound plasma concentration-time curve were larger and the fractional excretion of salicyluric acid was lower in children with kwashiorkor compared with control individuals. This was interpreted as lower hepatocellular metabolic activity in patients with kwashiorkor. Children with marasmus retained an unimpaired capacity for salicylate metabolism. The influence of saturable distribution and elimination are discussed.