While pathophysiology of elevated cytokines is well delineated, reference values for children are unknown, although they may vary physiologically with age and differ from those of adults. Between June and November 2001, interleukin (IL)-6, IL-10 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) concentrations from blood samples of 79 healthy children in six different age groups (group I: 0-3 months; group II: 4-12 months; group III: 13-24 months; group IV: 25-36 months; group V: 37-48 months; group VI: 49-60 months) were measured with ELISA. TNF-alpha was within 2.2-3.5 pg/ml in all groups with a trend toward higher values in groups II and III (p = ns). IL-6 was significantly lower in group III than in groups IV (p = 0.0165) and VI (p = 0.0147). IL-10 was within 3.3-5.5 pg/ml in all groups (p = ns). In regression analysis no correlation between age and cytokine concentrations was found. Although not statistically significant, IL-6 was lower and TNF-alpha higher than the adult reference values provided by the kit manufacturer. Although reference cytokine levels seem not age-related during early infancy, IL-6 is significantly lower during the second year of life than later. In infants aged 5 years or younger, reference levels of IL-6 should be chosen lower, and those of TNF-alpha higher, than the adult reference values.