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Lymph Nodes Swollen: Brief Version

What are swollen lymph nodes?

Lymph nodes are found just under your child's skin in the neck or groin area. They help protect your child from infection and viruses. When your child gets a cut, virus, illness, or has tooth decay, the lymph nodes can swell. That means they are helping to fight off infection.

Lymph nodes can double in size when your child is sick.

  • They slowly return to normal size when your child is better.
  • It may take 2 to 4 weeks for your child's lymph nodes to shrink back down.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Make sure the illness that made the lymph nodes swell gets treated.
  • Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for pain or fever over 102° F (39° C). No aspirin.

Call your child's doctor right away if:

  • One of your child's lymph nodes swells to 2 or more inches across.
  • The skin over the lymph node gets red.
  • Your child has trouble breathing or swallowing.
  • Your child starts to act very sick.

Call your child's doctor within 24 hours if:

  • One of your child's lymph nodes swells to 1 to 2 inches across.
  • Your child also gets a sore throat.
  • Your child has a fever for more than 3 days.
  • You have other questions or concerns.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2011-06-07
Last reviewed: 2018-07-13
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 ©1986-2018 Barton D. Schmitt, MD FAAP. All rights reserved.
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