Swollen glands are a sign the body is fighting an infection. They usually get better by themselves in 2 to 3 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 fever.
Things you can do yourself
Swollen glands go down in 2 or 3 weeks when the infection has gone.
You can help to ease the symptoms by:
- drinking plenty of fluids (to avoid dehydration)
- taking painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen (don't give aspirin to children under 16)
See a GP if:
- your swollen glands are getting bigger or they haven't gone down within 3 weeks
- they feel hard or don't 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
Get an urgent GP appointment or go to A&E if:
- you have swollen glands and you're finding it very difficult to breathe or swallow
Causes of swollen glands
Don't 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
- rarely caused by anything more serious, like cancer of the blood system (leukaemia) or lymph system (lymphoma)
If you see a GP they'll recommend treatment depending on the cause, which might include antibiotics.
Page last reviewed: 07/09/2017
Next review due: 07/09/2020