Swollen glands

Swollen glands are a sign the body is fighting an infection. They usually get better by themselves in 2 to 3 weeks.

Check if your glands are swollen

Swollen glands feel like tender, painful lumps:

  • on each side of the neck
  • under the chin
  • in the armpits
  • around the groin

Glands (known as lymph glands or lymph nodes) swell near an infection to help your body fight it.

Sometimes a gland on just one side of the body swells.

You might also have other symptoms, such as a sore throat, cough or fever.

Things you can do yourself

Swollen glands go down in 2 or 3 weeks when the infection has gone.

You can help to ease the symptoms by:

  • resting
  • drinking plenty of fluids (to avoid dehydration)
  • taking painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen (don’t give aspirin to children under 16)

See a GP if:

  • your swollen glands are getting bigger or they haven’t gone down within 3 weeks
  • they feel hard or don’t move when you press them
  • you’re having night sweats or have a very high temperature (you feel hot and shivery) for more than 3 or 4 days
  • you have swollen glands and no other signs of illness or infection

Get an urgent GP appointment or go to A&E:

  • if you have swollen glands and you’re finding it very difficult to breathe or swallow

Causes of swollen glands

Don’t use this information to self-diagnose - see a GP if you’re worried.

Swollen glands are:

  • often caused by common illnesses like colds, tonsillitis and ear or throat infections
  • rarely caused by anything more serious, like cancer of the blood system (leukaemia) or lymph system (lymphoma)

If you see a GP they’ll recommend treatment depending on the cause, which might include antibiotics.

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.

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