- Parents Home
- Allergy Center
- Asthma Center
- Cancer Center
- Diabetes Center
- A to Z
- Emotions & Behavior
- First Aid & Safety
- Food Allergy Center
- General Health
- Growth & Development
- Flu Center
- Heart Health
- Helping With Homework
- Diseases & Conditions
- Nutrition & Fitness Center
- Play & Learn Center
- School & Family Life
- Pregnancy & Newborn Center
- Sports Medicine Center
- Doctors & Hospitals
- Para Padres
- Kids Home
- Asthma Center for Kids
- Cancer Center for Kids
- Movies & More
- Diabetes Center for Kids
- Getting Help
- Puberty & Growing Up
- Health Problems of Grown-Ups
- Health Problems
- Homework Center
- How the Body Works
- Illnesses & Injuries
- Nutrition & Fitness Center for Kids
- Recipes & Cooking for Kids
- Staying Healthy
- Stay Safe Center
- Relax & Unwind Center
- Q&A for Kids
- The Heart
- Videos for Kids
- Staying Safe
- Kids' Medical Dictionary
- Para Niños
- Teens Home
- Asthma Center for Teens
- Be Your Best Self
- Cancer Center for Teens
- Diabetes Center for Teens
- Diseases & Conditions (for Teens)
- Drugs & Alcohol
- Expert Answers (Q&A)
- Flu Center for Teens
- Homework Help for Teens
- Infections (for Teens)
- Managing Your Medical Care
- Managing Your Weight
- Nutrition & Fitness Center for Teens
- Recipes for Teens
- Safety & First Aid
- School & Work
- Sexual Health
- Sports Center
- Stress & Coping Center
- Videos for Teens
- Para Adolescentes
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is one way the body reacts to infection, injury, or other medical conditions.
What Are the Different Kinds of Inflammation?
Inflammation (in-fluh-MAY-shin) can be acute or chronic:
- Acute inflammation lasts a few days and helps the body heal after an infection or injury.
- Chronic inflammation happens if the illness or infection doesn't go away or if the body gets injured over and over again (for example, from tobacco smoke). Chronic inflammation last months to years and can lead to other medical problems.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Inflammation?
Symptoms of inflammation include:
- trouble using the area
For example, if a child skins their knee, inflammation causes the area to get red and swollen. It also causes pain in the knee, making it hard to use the knee normally.
Chronic inflammation can lead to other symptoms, such as tiredness and fever.
What Causes Inflammation?
Different things cause inflammation, including:
- an infection or medical condition, for example:
- sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses)
- cystitis (inflammation of the bladder)
- bronchitis (inflammation in the lungs)
- vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels)
- dermatitis (inflammation of the skin)
- an injury such as bee sting, cut, or bruise
- an illness where the immune system mistakenly attacks itself (called an autoimmune illness), such as:
- damage from chemicals (such as tobacco smoke) or radiation
How Does Inflammation Happen?
The immune system's job is to fight germs and diseases. When an infection, injury, or other medical condition damages the body, the immune system brings healing cells to the area. These cells give off chemicals that make the blood vessels dilate (get bigger). This lets more blood get to the area, bringing more healing cells with it. The increased blood flow also causes redness and warmth. Some healing cells and fluid pass into the injured areas, leading to swelling there.
The chemicals also trigger nerves to send pain messages to the brain. This pain lets someone know to protect that area of the body so it can heal.
In vasculitis (vass-kyuh-LYE-tis), inflammation affects blood vessels. The walls of the blood vessels get damaged. This can make it hard for blood to get to the body's organs, such as the heart, lungs, intestines, and kidneys.
How Is Inflammation Treated?
Inflammation is often part of the healing process. So it might not need treatment. If treatment is needed, your doctor may recommend:
- resting an injured area
- raising the area above the level of the heart to help with swelling
- wrapping the area with a compression bandage to help with swelling
- putting ice on the area to help with pain and swelling (put a towel between the ice and the skin)
- medicine to help with pain, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- medicine to ease inflammation, such as ibuprofen or naproxen
- medicine to treat an illness or infection
- seeing a medical specialist for more treatment
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Call the doctor if your child:
- is not getting better after following the instructions for treatment
- has a new or higher fever
- has worsening redness, swelling, or pain
- has pus coming from a wound
- seems to be getting sicker
- Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- What Is Asthma?
- Wound Healing and Care
- Kawasaki Disease
- Immune System
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995- KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.