Extensive studies in both humans and animals have shown that females express enhanced levels of immunoreactivity compared to males. Whereas this provides females with increased resistance to many types of infection, it also makes them more susceptible to autoimmune diseases. This review will focus on gender-related differences in non-specific host defense mechanisms with a particular emphasis on monocyte/macrophage function and a primary product of monocytes: interleukin-1 (IL-1). Immunomodulatory cytokines such as IL-1 are influenced by gender-sensitive hormones, and reciprocally, these cytokines influence gender-specific hormones and tissues. Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are predominantly women, therefore it may be useful to look toward gender-specific differences in immune function to find a key for this poorly understood syndrome.