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There are many glands (or lymph nodes) in the neck and the job of these lymph nodes is to drain areas of infection. So whenever there is any type of infection or inflammation in the head, throat, neck or other part of the body these glands become swollen.
Different glands swell up for different reasons:
Viral sore throats, strep throat infections, tooth infections and other mouth infections will cause swollen glands in the neck.
Infections or irritations of the scalp will cause swollen glands on the back part of the neck.
Eye infections can cause the glands in front of your ears to enlarge
Glands in the groin area can enlarge from infections of the legs
Swimmer’s ear can cause the glands in front of and behind your ears to enlarge
Glands in the armpits and neck can enlarge from infections in your arms (and one of the causes of such infections is being scratched by a cat).
The lymph nodes or glands may even become infected themselves and will enlarge quickly, becoming red and tender.
Swollen glands are not usually a cause for concern and they will mostly return to normal within a couple of weeks. However, you will be wise to discuss with your doctor if your young child’s swollen glands are red and tender, if he has swollen glands all over his body or is having nightly fevers or is loosing weight. A swollen gland which continues to enlarge or is still there after a few weeks also needs to be investigated.
Many of the causes of swollen glands such as colds, coughs, earaches and sore throats are viral in origin as opposed to bacterial infections. And antibiotics will only work for bacterial infections. There is concern about the effects of repeated courses of antibiotics especially on a child’s developing immune system. Many doctors are now adopting a wait-and-see policy for children with such infections and are supporting parents who prefer tender loving care and alternative medicine over antibiotics for treating viral infections.
Studies are also pointing to the need to approach illnesses in our children in a way that encourages their own natural immunity. Outside influences such as stress or stresses, changes in the weather, poor diet, or dairy products may be a contributing factor to such illnesses.