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 (do not give aspirin to children under 16)

When to get medical help

See a GP if:

  • your swollen glands are getting bigger or they have not gone down within 3 weeks
  • they feel hard or do not 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

When to get medical help

Get advice from 111 now if:

  • you have swollen glands and you're finding it very difficult to swallow

111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

Other ways to get help

Get an urgent GP appointment

A GP may be able to treat you.

Ask your GP practice for an urgent appointment.

Causes of swollen glands

Do not 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.

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