Lymphadenopathy in children

Lymphadenopathy (or ‘swollen glands’) is very common in children. In fact, it is estimated that around 50% of otherwise healthy children may have lymphadenopathy at any one time.

In the majority of children, lymphadenopathy is usually reactive. This is a normal response to childhood infections such as colds or tonsillitis. It is also seen in children with eczema or babies with cradle cap.

Localised swelling or fever may indicate bacterial lymphadenitis requiring antibiotics. Rarely, lymphadenopathy may form part of presentation of less common infections or haematological malignancy.

Lymphadenopathy refers to lymph nodes abnormal in size, consistency or number. Lymph nodes greater than 1.5cm in diameter in the groin, or 1cm anywhere else, are defined as raised. However, in practice, cervical lymph nodes less than 2cm in diameter are unlikely to indicate severe pathology.

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