Causes of Swollen Glands in Children

Swollen glands in children are often not very serious. However, it's always important to ask your doctor if their lymph nodes are very hard.
Causes of Swollen Glands in Children

Last update: 14 July, 2019

Swollen glands in children can be a cause for concern, yet most of the time, they’re not very serious. Lymph nodes are like “caregivers” who put themselves on guard when something doesn’t work well in the body.

These are normal structures that are very important in the body. They contain immune system cells that take care of your body’s defenses.

Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, which is a network of vessels that are smaller than arteries and veins. They’re spread throughout the entire body. However, there are lots in specific places, like your neck, armpits and groin.

Swollen glands in children

It’s very common for pediatricians to see swollen glands in children. In young kids, this happens very often.

It’s very easy to check if your child has swollen glands, since they’ll be abnormally big. You’ll see a little bump, and sometimes they’re painful.

Also, don’t forget that kids’ bodies are very rich in lymphatic tissue. Therefore, swollen lymph nodes in children are very common because little kids have more evident immune responses to bacterial infections. This is especially true in their first four years.

What is lymphatic tissue?

It’s the tissue that forms lymph nodes and lymphoid cells. The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune system, which works to fight diseases and infections. In turn, it goes through lots of changes as children grow. It grows steadily until puberty, then starts to grow more slowly.

Causes of Swollen Glands in Children

On the other hand, swollen lymph nodes may be more or less noticeable to the touch. It’s less common in younger babies, but it’s very normal to see swollen glands in older children between two and 15 years old who have an infection.

“The most common places for swollen glands in kids are the neck and head.”

Main causes of swollen glands in children

Bacteria and infections like pharyngitis, tonsillitis, sinusitis and conjunctivitis can cause inflamed lymph nodes. They’ll make their glands hurt for a little while. In fact, this can happen a lot in a short amount of time.

On the other hand, a parasite or fungus could also cause inflammation. Although it’s not very common for this to happen to children, you should always be careful.

In very rare cases, they’re a symptom of serious immune diseases, which are disorders where the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body. In addition, they could be neoplastic, which happens as a result of changes in tissue cells.

It’s much less common for swollen glands to be symptoms of more serious infections. For example, mono, immune diseases, thyroid problems, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Kawasaki disease, tumors, and side effects from some drugs.

Warning signs of swollen glands in children

Most of the diseases that cause inflamed lymph nodes aren’t serious. However, it’s important to know the warning signs of serious problems. Therefore, you should pay attention when:

  • Lymph nodes are very hard
  • Size is greater than one inch and are getting bigger
  • Appear bigger throughout the body
  • They’re accompanied by weight loss, prolonged fever, generalized pains and paleness
  • Growth of the liver or spleen, which could make your child’s abdomen hurt
Causes of Swollen Glands in Children

How to treat this problem

Treatments for inflamed lymph nodes in children aim to cure whatever caused the inflammation.  For example, ear infections. When you treat the problem, the swollen glands will go back to their normal size.

If it’s a bacterial infection, your child will need antibiotics. However, for viruses, doctors will just treat the symptoms. Also, some infections and tumors will need special treatment and special care.

Normally, swollen lymph nodes in childhood work well with the treatments that we mentioned. If you have any questions or concerns, go to your pediatrician so that he or she can diagnose your child and provide the best treatment.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.