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Have you discovered a lump behind the ear, in the throat or on the neck of your child? Maybe it’s a lymph node? Should it really be there for so long? Can the nodules be dangerous?
The lumps are often lymph nodes.
Pea-sized nodules on the neck, in the throat or behind the ears are almost always lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are also found in the armpits, groin, inside the stomach and between the lungs. The latter, of course, cannot be felt with your fingers. A normal and healthy lymph node can be up to 1cm in size in the groin, behind the ear, in the throat or on the neck.
What are lymph nodes?
Lymph nodes are an important part of the immune system. They are always there. In the lymph nodes there are lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. These lymphocytes help the body fight infection. Therefore swelling of the lymph nodes is generally a result of high levels of lymphocytes being produced to help fight an infection.
Read about how an infant’s immune system functions
Swollen lymph nodes
Dormant lymph nodes are pea-sized and can barely be felt at all. In case of infections, the lymph nodes swell and can often grow up to 2-3 cm in size. A few months after the infection, they often shrink again. Sometimes it takes longer.
Read more about tonsillitis glandular fever and swollen lymph nodes in children here
During and after otitis, one can often feel enlarged lymph nodes behind the ear.
Read more about otitis in children
Let lymph nodes rest.
If you have felt a lymph node on your child, it is natural to want to check if it has disappeared. Every time you feel for the lymph node though, you tease it a little, and the swelling may take longer to subside. It is therefore recommended that you mark your calendar, or set an alarm on your mobile four weeks from the days you discovered the lump. Meanwhile, stay away from it. If the lump is larger or still more than 2cm in size after four weeks, then it is time to seek medical attention.
Can lumps on the neck be cancer?
It is extremely rare that lumps on the neck, in the throat or behind the ears of children are due to cancer. Glands with cancer (eg. lymphoma) are hard, and unlike healthy glands they continue to grow all the time.
How a baby’s immune system works – about breastfeeding and antibodies.
Tonsillitis, glandular fever and swollen lymph nodes in children
Streptococcus in children – tonsillitis, perianal strep, scarlet fever