Can Allergies Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Yes, allergies may indirectly cause swollen lymph nodes. You experience swollen lymph nodes when you have an infection. Lymph nodes have white blood cells that help fight against the infection in your body. When you have allergies, your immune system is constantly working and may become overworked. An overworked immune system can cause you to get sick, thus causing swollen glands. 

 

human torso infographic showing the anatomy of the lymph system with a picture of a lymph node that looks like a lima bean. lymph node definition: Anatomy of the lymph system, showing the lymph vessels and lymph organs including lymph nodes, tonsils, thymus, spleen, and bone marrow. Lymph (clear fluid) and lymphocytes travel through the lymph vessels and into the lymph nodes where the lymphocytes destroy harmful substances. The lymph enters the blood through a large vein near the heart. 

Some medical professionals believe that anything that activates the immune system (like allergies), could cause the lymph nodes to swell. According to the National Cancer Institute, the lymph systems’ main purpose is to help the body fight infection and disease. 

 

Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes

The cause of swollen lymph nodes (also known as lymph glands), is typically when your body is fighting an infection. The NHS explains that swollen glands are usually caused by the following. 

Often Causes Swollen Lymph Nodes

  • Colds (rhinovirus)
  • Tonsillitis
  • Ear infections
  • Throat infections

Sometimes Causes Swollen Lymph Nodes

  • Viral Infections
  • Glandular Fever

Rarely Causes Swollen Lymph Nodes

  • Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma


Symptoms of Swollen Lymph Nodes 

The symptoms of swollen lymph glands consist of an enlarged, tender, hard node under the skin. Since the lymph system is activated by an infection or inflammation, you may feel ill overall. 

Common Allergy Symptoms

Swollen lymph nodes are not typically a symptom of allergies, here are the most common allergy symptoms.

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy or watery eyes 
  • Runny nose 
  • Congestion
  • Sinus Pressure
  • Sore throat
  • Cough 
  • Hives 

How to Treat Swollen Lymph Nodes 

Treatment is not usually necessary. As your body begins to heal from the infection or illness the lymph nodes should return to normal size within 3 weeks. The treatment for swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy) is usually home care to ease symptoms.

My Health, Alberta gives some great advice on how to treat swollen glands. 

Do Not:

  • Pop,  push, or squeeze lymph nodes
  • Stick a needle into the lump

Do:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated 
  • Consider taking over-the-counter pain medicine 
  • Apply a warm compress to ease pain 

When to see a doctor

You should see a doctor for your swollen lymph nodes if the symptoms don’t resolve with self-care, you are experiencing new symptoms, your symptoms are getting worse, or if you have not been seen for this condition in the past.

It is always recommended to talk with your healthcare team for a diagnosis and treatment options.  

What are lymph nodes?

Lymph nodes are nodes that look like little lima beans. Lymph nodes are essentially filters that capture infection or disease to keep you healthy.

The National Cancer Institute defines a lymph node as:

A small bean-shaped structure that is part of the body’s immune system. Lymph nodes filter substances that travel through the lymphatic fluid, and they contain lymphocytes (white blood cells) that help the body fight infection and disease. There are hundreds of lymph nodes found throughout the body. They are connected to one another by lymph vessels. Clusters of lymph nodes are found in the neck, axilla (underarm), chest, abdomen, and groin. For example, there are about 20-40 lymph nodes in the axilla. Also called lymph gland.

Lymph Nodes Location in the Body 

Lymph nodes are found throughout the body. MedlinePlus lists the common areas where lymph nodes can be felt with your fingers. 

Common Lymph Node Locations

common lymph node locations on the body infographic of a man running. Common Lymph Node Locations Groin ArmpitsNeck Neck Under jaw Below chin Behind the ears Back of the head

  • Groin
  • ArmpitsNeck
  • Neck
  • Under jaw
  • Below chin
  • Behind the ears
  • Back of the head

Why do Lymph Nodes Swell?

Lymph nodes begin to work when there is an infection, injury, or cancer to handle. As these “filters” are working to get rid of the infected cells, they begin to swell as they take on more fluid and/or waste to be purged.

Cancer.org  explains that typically lymph nodes swell near the site of infection.

For example, if the lymph nodes in your neck or jaw are swelling, this may be a sign of a cold. There are some instances when many areas of lymph nodes swell. The cause of multiple lymph node swelling is certain infections, some medications, autoimmune diseases, and cancers.

A point to drive home, lymph node swelling is rarely caused by cancer. 

Swollen Lymph Nodes FAQs 

Can seasonal or environmental allergies cause my lymph nodes to swell?

Yes. Allergies can cause lymph nodes to swell (very rare). Typically the swelling is caused by illness or inflammation. 

Can antihistamines help with swollen lymph nodes?

Probably not. Swollen lymph nodes are mainly caused by an illness or infection. Antihistamines are used to treat allergies. 

Can allergies cause swollen lymph nodes under the jaw? 

Yes. Allergies can cause inflammation in the area under the jaw. 

What helps swollen lymph nodes from allergies?

  • Remove yourself from what is triggering your allergies
  • Try an antihistamine 
  • Apply a warm compress 
  • Get plenty of rest 
  • Stay hydrated 
  • Consider taking over-the-counter pain medication 

Can stress cause your lymph nodes to swell? 

Maybe. Scientists are studying the effects of stress on your lymph nodes, but do not have a definitive answer. 

Can lymph nodes in the neck swell from allergies?

Yes. Inflammation from allergy symptoms can irritate your lymph nodes and cause swelling in the neck area. 

Can food allergies cause swollen lymph nodes in the neck? 

No. According to Dr. Matthew Fero (Oncologist), food allergies can cause swelling of the neck and throat, but not the lymph nodes themselves.

What does a swollen lymph node feel like?

Swollen lymph nodes feel like a firm bean filled with fluid under the skin. 

When should you worry about a swollen lymph node?

According to leukaemiacare.org.uk, you should see your doctor if your swollen lymph nodes:

  • Are still swollen after 2-weeks
  • Do not get better with antibiotics 
  • Are enlarged but painless
  • Continue to grow in size
  • Are enlarged when you have no signs of illness 
  • Cannot be moved around or are stone-like

Do lymph nodes swell with COVID 19?

Yes, lymph nodes can swell with COVID-19. Lymph nodes are part of the immune system response when you have an illness like COVID-19. 

How long does it take for swollen lymph nodes to go away? 

Up to 3 weeks. Swollen lymph nodes should return to normal size in about 2-3 weeks. 

 

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By Chris

Chris is the creator of Allergy Preventions. As an allergy sufferer himself, his vision is to help others find relief from allergies. By combining his 14 years of Public Health experience, personal experience, and his thirst for knowledge, he is dedicated to providing quality recommendations to assist families with allergy symptom relief.