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Enlarged Lymph Nodes in the Neck

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Last updated May 29, 2024

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What are enlarged lymph nodes in the neck?

Lymph nodes are the glands in your body that contain the cells of the immune system. Enlarged lymph nodes occur when the nodes fill with inflammatory cells, usually as a response to a bacterial or viral infection. Swelling can be small—and not really noticeable—or they may be large enough for you to feel them.

Symptoms you may also have:

In rare cases, enlarged lymph nodes may be due to an autoimmune disease. Or the cause may be a mystery. Enlarged lymph nodes can also be a sign of cancer. But when it’s from cancer, the lymph nodes are usually not painful.


Enlarged lymph nodes caused by infections go away on their own when the infection is gone or within a couple of weeks. To speed up the process, try applying a warm, wet compress to the affected area.

If the cause is cancer, the enlarged bump will not go away on its own. See your doctor about any enlarged lymph node that does not go away in several weeks.

Here are some over-the-counter (OTC) treatments that might help ease your symptoms:

  • Pain Relievers: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Saltwater Gargle: Gargling with warm saltwater can help reduce throat irritation if your lymph nodes are swollen due to a throat infection. You can use regular table salt for this.

Ready to treat your enlarged lymph nodes in the neck?

We show you only the best treatments for your condition and symptoms—all vetted by our medical team. And when you’re not sure what’s wrong, Buoy can guide you in the right direction.See all treatment options
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The stories shared below are not written by Buoy employees. Buoy does not endorse any of the information in these stories. Whenever you have questions or concerns about a medical condition, you should always contact your doctor or a healthcare provider.
Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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