Swollen Lymph Nodes: Care Instructions

Skip Navigation
Location of lymph nodes in the neck with close up of swollen lymph node and normal lymph node

Your Care Instructions

Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped glands throughout the body. They help your body fight germs and infections.

Lymph nodes often swell when there is a problem such as an injury, infection, or tumor.

  • The nodes in your neck, under your chin, or behind your ears may swell when you have a cold or sore throat.
  • An injury or infection in a leg or foot can make the nodes in your groin swell.
  • Sometimes medicine can make lymph nodes swell, but this is rare.

Treatment depends on what caused your nodes to swell. Usually the nodes return to normal size without a problem.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Avoid irritation.
    • Do not squeeze or pick at the lump.
    • Do not stick a needle in it.
  • Prevent infection. Do not squeeze, drain, or puncture a painful lump. Doing this can irritate or inflame the lump, push any existing infection deeper into the skin, or cause severe bleeding.
  • Get extra rest. Slow down just a little from your usual routine.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have worse symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your lymph nodes do not get smaller or do not return to normal.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter A919 in the search box to learn more about "Swollen Lymph Nodes: Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.