Swollen Glands in Children

Signs, Symptoms & Causes

There are many lymph glands in the body. They protect the body from infection. They make a white blood cell that kills germs in the body. Lymph glands also trap viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells.


You can feel your child’s lymph glands when they swell up. When a lymph gland swells up from an infection, it usually hurts when you touch it. Sometimes the glands stay swollen for a long time after the infection is gone. They usually don’t hurt and are not dangerous.


Watch out for swollen glands that are:

•  Hard.

•  “Rubbery.”

•  Without pain.

•  Getting bigger.

These glands can be signs of lymphoma (cancer of the lymph glands), leukemia, or some other cancer.


The salivary glands are another kind of gland. They are under the tongue, on the bottom of the mouth, and just below the ear. They are not lymph glands. They make saliva, or “spit.” The salivary glands in front of the ears swell up when your child has mumps.

What Causes Swollen Glands?

•  A throat or ear infection is a  common cause of swollen glands in the neck.

•  An infection in the feet, legs, or groin can make the lymph glands in the groin swell.

•  Mononucleosis can make neck glands swell. (High school and college students call this “mono” or “the kissing disease.”)

•  Mumps.

•  Cat scratch fever. A cat’s claws carry this sickness.

•  Medicines, like Dilantin®. (This medicine is for epilepsy.)

•  Dental work.

•  Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph glands, or leukemia.

•  Tuberculosis (TB).

How to Keep Your Child from Getting Swollen Glands

•  Make sure your children’s measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) shots are up-to-date.

•  Keep your child away from people who have sicknesses they can catch.

Questions to Ask


There isn’t much you can do for swollen glands. You have to treat the problem that made them swell. Watch to see if the glands get bigger. Watch to see if any other glands swell up. Call the doctor if the glands keep getting bigger, or if they last 3 or 4 weeks.


Try these tips to make your child feel better:

•  Tell your child to rest when they feel tired. Tell them not to “overdo it.”

•  Give your child plenty to drink.

•  Put warm, wet washcloths and antiseptic creams on scratches and other wounds.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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