Lymph nodes are a part of the lymphatic system. Though these are located throughout the body, you can feel them in areas such as the neck, armpit, and groin. They act as filters and the immune cells stored in these nodes trap and kill bacteria, viruses, or other disease-causing agents. Thus, they play a vital role in providing protection against infections and diseases.
However, these may get inflamed or swollen due to bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections. This condition is referred to as lymphadenitis. The location at which swelling and inflammation takes place can provide valuable insights in the diagnosis of the type of infection one is affected by. The lymph nodes in the neck could swell up due to a wide range of reasons.
Active viral or bacterial infections are common reasons behind the inflammation of the nodes. The swelling is actually an immune response. When the immune system detects the presence of pathogens, it increases the production of immune cells in order to fight these infections, which causes the nodes to swell up. Under such circumstances, the nodes become visible and palpable. Strep throat, sore throat, ear infections, common cold, tonsillitis, salivary gland infection, peritonsillar abscess, mononucleosis, sinus infections, sebaceous cysts around the neck region, or tooth infection are some of the common causes of inflammation.
Inflammation of epiglottis, which is the flap situated at the base of the tongue, can also cause the nodes in the neck to swell up. Infections such as chickenpox, measles, and mumps are commonly associated with enlarged lymph nodes in neck in children. At times, swelling over the node might even be a side effect of vaccinations. When the nodes present in neck swell up, one may experience symptoms such as difficulty with swallowing, drinking or even breathing. If the child has fever and the skin over the painful lymph node has turned red, medical assistance must be sought for prompt diagnosis and treatment.
While slight enlargement of the node might be an immune response and indicates that the nodes are trying to destroy the disease-causing agents, if the child has high fever and is in pain, consult a doctor immediately. Besides studying the size, texture, and the location of the node, doctors might also run some diagnostic tests. Since the swelling could be caused due to a wide range of reasons, it's important that the underlying cause be determined as soon as possible.
Most of these infections can be treated with the help of anti-inflammatory drugs. In case of severe bacterial infections, antibiotic drugs might have to be administered intravenously. In the event of accumulation of pus, it will have to be drained out. Once the infection has cleared, the node will shrink back to its normal size. More often than not, infections can be easily treated with drug therapy. However, doctors might conduct a lymph node biopsy if the swelling persists for a long time. This is to rule out serious autoimmune disorders, lymphoma, or cancer.
The symptoms that arise due to inflammation of the lymph nodes located in the neck can be easily alleviated with the help of drugs. If your child seems to be experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, consult a doctor at the earliest.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.