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Quick reference medical handouts used by Pediatric offices


Are those bumps in my child's neck serious?
    
Discovering a lump in your young child's neck or under their arm can strike fear into the hearts of parents. True, enlarged lymph nodes can be a symptom of a serious illness such as cancer or tuberculous, but that is very rarely the case. Until the age of ten, children frequently have often visible, enlarged lymph glands. Most of the time, the swelling suggests the presence of an infection in the same general area as the gland. More than a thousand Iymph nodes are scattered throughout the body, ranging from the size of a pinhead to the size of a small grape. They consist of a dense core of specialized cells that fight infection by producing white blood cells and antibodies; Iymph glands also filter out impurities in the body such as germs and foreign proteins. The nodes in young children are covered with less tissue and fat than in adults, and so are more visible, even when not inflamed. Lymph nodes are part of the body's defense mechanism. They swell to fight an infection. Any illness or wound, even one as minor as an insect bite, can mobilize this response. This is why glands can be swollen in a child who doesn't seem sick. The most commonly noticed lymph nodes are in your child's neck. This is because most germs enter the body through the nose, mouth, and throat - thus these nodes are the ones that filter germs and enlarge most frequently. Occasionally, a Iymph node itself becomes infected, usually in response to a nearby localized infection. Symptoms include redness, extreme tenderness, or rarely, a yellow discharge from the gland. If this occurs, consult your pediatrician immediately. Other signs of potential trouble include lymph glands that enlarge rapidly, measure more than an inch in diameter and are not tender to the touch, are very hard, are located above the collarbone or around any joints, or the skin overlying the lymph gland turns red or purple. These should be evaluated, just to be on the safe side.

 

As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s pediatrician. Please read our full disclaimer.

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