Swollen Glands

The lymphatic system runs through your whole body. It is made up of lymph glands and what connects them together. The lymph glands protect the body from infection. They make a white blood cell that kills germs in the body. Lymph glands also trap viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells.

You can feel your child’s lymph glands when they swell up. When a lymph gland swells up from an infection, it usually hurts when you touch it. Sometimes the glands stay swollen for a long time after the infection is gone. They usually don’t hurt and are not dangerous.

Watch out for glands like this:

  • Hard
  • “Rubbery”
  • Without pain
  • Getting bigger

These glands can be signs of lymphoma (cancer of the lymph glands), leukemia, or some other cancer.

The salivary glands are another kind of gland. They are under the tongue, on the bottom of the mouth, and just below the ear. They are not lymph glands. They make saliva, or “spit.” The salivary glands under the ears (near the jaw line) swell up when your child has mumps.

What Causes Swollen Glands?

  • A throat or ear infection is a common cause of swollen glands in the neck.
  • An infection in the feet, legs, or groin can make the lymph glands in the groin swell.
  • Mononucleosis can make neck glands swell. (High school and college students also call this “mono” or “the kissing disease.”)
  • Mumps
  • Cat scratch fever. A cat’s claws carry this sickness.
  • Medicines like Dilantin (This medicine is for epilepsy.)
  • Dental work
  • Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph glands, or leukemia
  • Tuberculosis (TB)

How to Keep Your Child from Getting Swollen Glands
Keep your child away from people who have sicknesses they can catch.

Questions to Ask

Are the swollen glands-
  • Red?
  • Sore when you touch them?
  • At the bottom of the neck?
Yes:See Doctor
Can you see the swollen glands between the jaw and under the ear? (This could be mumps.)Yes:See Doctor
Are the swollen glands near the back of the neck? Is there a pink rash on the face? (This could be German measles.)Yes:See Doctor
Has your child had swollen glands for more than 3 weeks? And you don’t know why?Yes:See Doctor
Are the swollen glands 1 or more inches big?Yes:Call Doctor
Is your child taking Dilantin?Yes:Call Doctor
Does your child have a sore throat or fever?Yes:Call Doctor

Self-Care Tips

There isn’t much you can do for swollen glands. You have to treat the problem that made them swell. Watch to see if the glands get bigger. Watch to see if any other glands swell up. Call the doctor if the glands keep getting bigger, or if they last 3 or 4 weeks.

Try these tips to make your child feel better:

  • Tell your child to rest when they feel tired. Tell them not to “overdo it.”
  • Give your child plenty to drink.
  • Put warm, wet washclothes and antiseptic creams on scratches and other wounds.

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    Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

    Explore Wellness in 2021