Skip to main content

Swollen glands

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:

  • resting
  • 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 have not gone down within 3 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

Urgent advice: Get advice from 111 now if:

  • you have swollen glands and you're finding it very difficult to swallow

111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

Other ways to get help

Get an urgent GP appointment

A GP may be able to treat you.

Ask your GP practice for an urgent appointment.

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
  • 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.

Help us improve our website

If you've finished what you're doing, can you answer some questions about your visit today?

Take our survey

Page last reviewed: 8 September 2017
Next review due: 8 September 2020