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Lymph nodes are small round shaped glands that are about the size
of a pea or baked bean. The body contains more than 500 lymph
nodes. Lymph nodes help prevent the spread of infection and
protect the bloodstream from viral and bacterial invasion. Normal
nodes are largest at age 10 to 12 years. At this age they can be
twice the normal adult size. The easiest to feel are in the neck,
armpit, or groin.
Lymph nodes swell when they are fighting an infection.
Cuts, scrapes, scratches, splinters, burns, insect bites, rashes,
impetigo, and any break in the skin will cause lymph glands to get
larger. Try to locate and identify the cause of a swollen gland.
If the nodes in the groin are swollen, look for an injury in the
legs and lower abdomen. If the armpit nodes are swollen, examine
the arms and upper chest. Swelling of the back-of-the-neck nodes
suggests an injury on the scalp. The front-of-the-neck nodes drain
the lower face, nose, and throat, so an injury or infection in
these areas might cause the nodes to swell. Most enlarged nodes in
the neck are due to colds or throat infections. A disease like
chickenpox can cause all the nodes to swell.
Viral infections and minor skin infections and irritations can
cause lymph nodes to double in size quickly over 2 or 3 days. They
return slowly to normal size over the next 2 to 4 weeks. However,
they won't disappear completely.
You will always be able to see and feel nodes in most normal,
healthy children, especially in the neck and groin.
In general, no treatment is necessary for swollen nodes
associated with viral infections (for example, colds). For
bacterial infections, the disease that's causing the node to
react needs to be treated. For example, remove the splinter,
treat the ingrown toenail, or have a dentist treat the tooth
abscess. Many children with swollen lymph nodes due to a skin
infection also need an oral antibiotic.
For pain or fever above 102�F, give the appropriate dose of
acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil).
Poking and squeezing lymph nodes may keep them from shrinking
back to normal size. Remember that it may take a month for the
nodes to return to normal. They won't completely disappear.
There's no need to check them more than once a month. If your
child fidgets with them, discourage it if he's old enough to
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