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Swollen glands

Swollen glands are a sign the body is fighting an infection. They usually get better by themselves within 2 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 high temperature.


Things you can do yourself

Swollen glands should go down within 2 weeks.

You can help to ease the symptoms by:


See a GP if:

  • your swollen glands are getting bigger or they have not gone down within 2 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
  • you have swollen lymph glands just above or below your collar bone (the bone that runs from your breastbone to each of your shoulders)

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
  • sometimes caused by viral infections such as glandular fever
  • rarely caused by anything more serious, like cancer of the blood system (leukaemia) or lymph system (lymphoma)

A GP will be able to recommend treatment depending on the cause, which might include antibiotics (antibiotics do not work on viral infections).