Innate, inflammation-based immunity is the first line of vertebrate defence against micro-organisms. Inflammation relies on a number of cellular and molecular effectors that can strike invading pathogens very shortly after the encounter between inflammatory cells and the intruder, but in a non-specific way. Owing to this non-specific response, inflammation can generate substantial costs for the host if the inflammatory response, and the associated oxygen-based damage, get out of control. This imposes strong selection pressure that acts to optimize two key features of the inflammatory response: the timing of activation and resolution (the process of downregulation of the response). In this paper, we review the benefits and costs of inflammation-driven immunity. Our aim is to emphasize the importance of resolution of inflammation as a way of maintaining homeostasis against oxidative stress and to prevent the 'horror autotoxicus' of chronic inflammation. Nevertheless, host immune regulation also opens the way to pathogens to subvert host defences. Therefore, quantifying inflammatory costs requires assessing (i) short-term negative effects, (ii) delayed inflammation-driven diseases, and (iii) parasitic strategies to subvert inflammation.