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Ask the Pediatrician

Dr. Jennifer Shu and her team of pediatricians answer your health questions.

Dr. Jennifer Shu

Question & Answer


My son has had a swollen lymph node for almost 2 months under his jaw. Is this normal?


Lymph nodes (sometimes also called lymph glands) contain white blood cells and filter the germs throughout the body. They are most easily felt in areas where they are close to the skin, such as around the face and neck or in the groin. Lymph nodes are usually about the size of a pea and can become enlarged when they work overtime during common infections such as the common cold, strep throat, and infected skin wounds. An enlarged lymph node in the area of an infection (such as a swollen neck node during an ear infection) may double in size, going from about a quarter or half of an inch to nearly an inch wide. The node will usually shrink back to normal within a few weeks after the infection has passed.

A lymph node itself may become infected by bacteria and may require treatment with an antibiotic. Less common causes of enlarged lymph nodes include infections such as cat scratch disease, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases. Certain conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are also associated with enlarged nodes. Finally, cancer and HIV infection are rare causes.

For enlarged lymph nodes that persist longer than a few weeks, get bigger or happen along with other symptoms such as fever, unexplained weight loss and night sweats, certain blood tests, X-rays or a biopsy of the node may be needed. However, although lymph nodes may alarm parents because they are noticeable, they are more commonly a sign of normal fluctuation.

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