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Lymph nodes in children

One of the most common referrals to my pediatric surgery practice is (in the parents’ words) “to check out this lump and make sure it’s nothing to worry about.”  Lymph nodes are part of the less publicized part of the circulatory system: the lymphatics.  Lymphatics play a key role in our body’s immune system, and lymph nodes grow in response to an infection in the “neighborhood” to produce cells necessary to hopefully resolve the infection. 

About half of all children will develop enlarged lymph nodes (cervical lymphadenitis) in the neck for example, and the vast majority of these are in response to a minor infection in the area (sore throat, sinus infection, ear infection, etc.).  Often the infection is quite subtle and might not be identified.  These nodes typically go through a pattern of growing and then receding in size once the infection resolves.  This process can take several weeks to months.  The nodes may become tender, warm, and there may be some redness of the overlying skin.  Your child might complain of pain in the area, be fussier, have fever, and/or have decreased appetite.  If the node itself becomes infected, it can turn into an abscess and would require antibiotics and a drainage procedure.  Any possibly infected lymph node should be evaluated by your doctor.
 
Some enlarged lymph nodes ...
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