Induction of hyperthermia (39 degrees C) in human volunteers by immersion in warm water (41-45 degrees C) rapidly alters the cell populations in the peripheral blood. In addition to granulocytosis, there is an alteration of the normal ratios among T-lymphocyte subsets. Following in vitro mitogen stimulation, lymphocytes from hyperthermic individuals produce as much as 10-fold more interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) than cells withdrawn at basal core temperatures from the same individuals. A temperature threshold of 39 degrees C for this response suggests potential relevance to fever. No change was noted in the activity of the macrophage population. The possible involvement of interleukin-2 (IL-2) in this enhanced production is discussed. No changes were noted in the circulating levels of IFN-gamma.