Local Lymph Node Swelling in the Neck, No Antibiotic Treatment

You have a swollen lymph node in your neck that is not infected. The lymph nodes are part of the immune system. They are found under the jaw and along the side of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin. A nearby infection or inflammation causes the lymph nodes in that area to swell. They may also be mildly tender. This is normal.

Antibiotics are not used for a swollen lymph node that is not infected. You can use hot compresses and pain medicine to treat this condition. The pain will get better over the next 7 to 10 days. The swelling may take several months to go away.

Rarely, a bacterial infection occurs inside the lymph node, itself. When this happens, the lymph node becomes very painful and the nearby skin gets red and warm. You may also have a fever. If this happens, call your healthcare provider. You may need to take antibiotics. You may also need to have the lymph node drained.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • Make a hot compress by running warm water over a wash cloth. Put the compress on the sore area until the compress cools off. Repeat this for 20 minutes. Use the compress 3 times a day for the first 3 days, or until the pain and redness begin to get better. The heat will make more blood flow to the area and speed the healing process.

  • You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain and fever, unless another medicine was prescribed for this. Don’t use ibuprofen in children under 6 months of age. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding. Don’t give aspirin to anyone under 18 years of age who is ill with a fever. It may cause severe liver damage.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Redness over the lymph node

  • Swelling or pain in the lymph node gets worse

  • Lymph node is getting soft in the middle

  • Pus or fluid drains from the lymph node

  • You have trouble breathing or swallowing

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • You have questions or concerns 

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