Proinflammatory cytokines (such as interleukin-1beta, tumor necrosis factor-alpha) and nitric oxide are known to have both direct and indirect modulating effects on neurons and neurotoxic neurotransmitters released during excitation or inflammation. We measured interleukin-1beta, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and nitrite levels in the peripheral blood and cerebrospinal fluid of children with febrile seizures and compared our results with those of children with febrile illnesses without seizures. Twenty-nine children with febrile seizure and 15 controls were studied. The mean concentrations of interleukin-1beta and nitrite were significantly increased in the cerebrospinal fluid (P < .01) of the children with febrile seizure. There were no significant changes in serum interleukin-1beta, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, nitrite, and cerebrospinal fluid tumor necrosis factor-alpha levels. Our data support the hypothesis that increased production of interleukin-1beta in the central nervous system or increased diffusion of interleukin-1beta through the blood-brain barrier is involved in the pathogenesis of febrile seizures.