The best way to treat a swollen neck gland depends on the cause. If it's the result of the body fighting off a virus or other infection, it may go away once the illness has passed. If it's caused by something more serious, a medical professional may need to run tests to find the underlying cause, then treat it. You may also be able to use warm compresses and pain relievers to treat some of the discomfort associated with swollen glands.
A swollen neck gland can be caused by many different things, and it may be the body’s natural response to viruses, a symptom of a bacterial infection or, in rarer circumstances, it may indicate some forms of lymphatic cancer. It’s therefore important that people involve medical professionals if the swelling in the lymph gland doesn’t disappear quickly. Especially if a gland is swollen for several months, or if you also have a fever and/or an extreme sore throat, get medical attention right away.
When a healthcare provider treats a patient with swollen neck glands, he or she usually first looks for signs of viral infection. Even a common cold may cause one or more glands in the neck to swell, and if cold symptoms are present, there may be no specific treatment required. Other viruses need to at least be identified, even if there is no treatment. If a gland is swollen and you have a sore throat, the healthcare professional might want to rule out mononucleosis.
When the swelling isn't caused by a virus, it could indicate a bacterial infection. Ruling out conditions like strep throat is important, and swelling of the lymph nodes is quite common when people have cat scratch fever. Many of the cases of long term lymph node swelling in children are due to this infection.
Once viruses and bacteria are eliminated as potential causes, some medical professionals may want to X-ray the neck or aspirate fluid from the swollen node to determine if cancer might be the cause. This usually isn’t done right away, and healthcare providers typically need fairly convincing evidence that it’s necessary. A neck gland can stay swollen for several months after a viral or bacterial infection.
If the problem is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics will likely be prescribed. They will typically help reduce the swelling as they kill the bacteria. A medical professional might also suggest use of a mild pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
From a home care perspective, there may be a few ways to alleviate some pain associated with the swollen neck gland. Warm compresses on the gland may relieve feelings of tightness and could help it to shrink. It's best to not spend a lot of time touching or massaging the swollen gland, however, as this may create additional irritation and more swelling.