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:
- drinking plenty of fluids (to avoid dehydration)
- taking painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen (do not give aspirin to children under 16)
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- your swollen glands are getting bigger or they've 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)
Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:
- you have swollen glands and you're finding it very difficult to swallow
You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.
Causes of swollen glands
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 (leukaemia) or lymph system (lymphoma)
Do not self-diagnose. See a GP if you're worried.
A GP will be able to recommend treatment depending on the cause, which might include antibiotics (antibiotics do not work on viral infections).
Page last reviewed: 25 September 2020
Next review due: 25 September 2023