Swollen Lymph Nodes in Children - When to Worry?

Swollen Lymph Nodes in Kids

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Arti Sharma (Paediatrician)
View more Paediatrician Our Panel of Experts

Lymph nodes are an important part of a body that help fight against infections and illnesses. However, swelling in the lymph nodes can raise concerns, especially if you notice them in your little ones. But, there is no need to worry. Read this article for more information on swollen lymph nodes in kids, what causes them, treatment options, etc.

What Are Lymph Nodes and Where Are They Found Over the Body?

Lymph nodes can be found all over the body. They are tiny filters that are responsible for catching the virus and bacteria that infect the body, after which the white blood cells come in and destroy them. There are about 600 lymph nodes in the body, some of which are mentioned below:

  • Occipital – back of the head
  • Preauricular – front of the ear
  • Postauricular – behind the ear
  • Submandibular – Under the jaw
  • Facial – In the cheek area
  • Submental – Under the skin
  • Anterior cervical – In the front of the neck
  • Posterior cervical – At the back of the neck
  • Supraclavicular – At the back of the neck
  • Axillary – In the armpit
  • Popliteal – Behind the knee
  • Epitrochlear – Below the elbow
  • In the groin area – Inguinal

What Is Lymphadenopathy in Kids?

Lymphadenopathy is when the lymph nodes begin to swell as the body fights off infections. Children are constantly exposed to various new infections and antigens, which mean that their lymph nodes are bigger than that of an adult. Swollen lymph nodes are sometimes referred to as swollen glands.

Can Enlarged Lymph Nodes In a Child Be a Serious Problem?

Usually, there is nothing to worry if a child has enlarged lymph nodes. It is a sign of the nodes doing their job and fighting off infections that the child may have as in the case of ‘mesenteric adenitis‘, where there are swollen lymph nodes in the stomach that go away on their own with time. Enlarged lymph nodes in different parts of the body may be caused due to different infections. It is normal to notice small lymph nodes in children; however, if they get bigger, it is a sign of an infection.

What Causes Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Causes of swollen lymph nodes in kids may include the following:

1. Lymphadenitis

Lymph nodes can swell up when they themselves get infected.

2. Viral Throat Infection

This is the most common cause of swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck. Lymph nodes in the neck are about half an inch to one-inch in size and appear the same on both sides.

3. Tooth Decay or Abscess

In the case of tooth decay, only one node becomes swollen, and it is located under the jaw.

4. Swollen Groin Nodes

This is caused by skin infections like Athlete’s Foot and a foreign object such as silver could also cause the swelling in the groin nodes.

5. Widespread Swollen Nodes

This is usually caused by infections in the blood, such as infectious mono, or widespread rashes such as eczema.

6. Bacterial Throat Infection

This causes swollen lymph nodes in children’s neck on one side and is quite large, measuring to about one inch. Nodes that are swollen due to bacterial throat infections are usually the ones that drain the tonsils.

7. Neck Nodes

These occur due to the numerous respiratory infections that take place during childhood.

8. Swollen Nodes in the Armpit

Skin problems such as impetigo or rashes like poison ivy can cause these to swell.

9. Shaving

Sometimes low-grade infections can take place during shaving of the legs.

Symptoms of Lymphadenopathy

Following are the symptoms of lymphadenopathy that you may notice in your child:

  • Fever
  • A sore throat, cough and congestion
  • Tenderness and pain in the affected area
  • Poor appetite
  • Warmth or redness in the area
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Lumps forming under the jaw, armpits, groin, chest, back of the neck and stomach.

Symptoms of Lymphadenopathy

Complications of Lymphadenopathy

Sometimes the lymph nodes may get infected by bacteria, a condition called “Adenitis”. If your child has this condition, lymph nodes may become big, painful, and tender. It may also turn red, and the child may also have a fever.

If it is detected earlier on, your child can take oral antibiotics and recover. However, in severe cases, your child may have to be taken to the hospital for intravenous antibiotics and for draining the pus from the infected nodes.

How Are Enlarged Lymph Nodes Diagnosed?

As swollen lymph nodes denote infections, your doctor will do a thorough examination to see which lymph nodes are swollen, how big they are, if they are red and tender, or rough and fixed in order to figure out the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.

How to Treat Lymphadenopathy in Children

Enlarged lymph nodes that are fighting viral infections do not need treatment, and they will go away on their own. If they have a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed, whereas painkillers may be prescribed for tenderness and pain. Treatment of enlarged lymph nodes depends upon what the underlying cause of the nodes is.

When to See a Doctor

If your child has a sore throat, fever, and the lymph nodes continue to grow or do not go away for weeks, take your child to a doctor. If you notice strange bruising or if your child is bleeding unusually from the nose and mouth or experiencing weight loss, visit your doctor. Nodes larger than four centimetres are serious, and medical intervention may be required.

While swollen lymph nodes in children are common and often go away on their own, they could put unnecessary stress on parents and children both. Adequate knowledge about lymph nodes can help you seek treatment whenever necessary.

Also Read: Neck Pain in Kids

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