Page header image

Cervical Adenitis

What is cervical adenitis?

Cervical adenitis is an infection of a lymph node in the neck. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped organs. They are part of the lymph system and can be found in groups or just one by itself. The lymph system is part of your body's system for fighting infection. The lymph system consists of lymph nodes that store blood cells (lymphocytes) to fight infection and vessels that carry fluid, nutrients, and wastes between your body and your bloodstream.

Another term for this infection is cervical lymphadenitis.

What is the cause?

Bacteria or viruses in the nose, tonsils, or adenoids can spread to the lymph nodes and cause an infection. Bacteria may also spread from an infected tooth or from an infection in another part of the body.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Swelling and tenderness of one or more lymph nodes
  • Sore or red skin in the area of the affected lymph nodes
  • Pain when your child swallows
  • Pain when your child moves his or her neck

Your child may be unwilling to move the neck fully in all directions.

How is it diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Your child may have blood tests to look for signs of infection, including mononucleosis. Your child may have swabs of his tonsils or throat. If the node is very swollen, or if your child has severe pain, your child may have:

  • An ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show pictures of the lymph nodes
  • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of the neck

How is it treated?

Lymph node infections caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotic medicine. More severe infections may need to be treated with IV antibiotics in the hospital. Sometimes, if the infection becomes an abscess and is full of pus, the infection will need to be opened and drained.

If there is so much swelling that the infection is pressing on your child’s throat or windpipe, your child may need to stay in the hospital until the swelling has gone down.

How can I take care of my child?

  • You can give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever or pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, your child should not take this medicine for more than 10 days for any reason.
  • Make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids.
  • If your healthcare provider outlined the lymph node with a pen, tell your provider if the size of the lymph node or redness is growing beyond the markings.
  • If the infection was drained, follow your provider’s instructions for taking care of the wound.
  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider:
    • How and when you will hear your child’s test results
    • How long it will take for your child to recover
    • If there are activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
    • How to take care of your child at home
    • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them
  • Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-09-05
Last reviewed: 2014-06-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
Page footer image