Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Why are the glands in my neck swollen if I'm not sick?"
Ever since I was a kid, when I was sick, my dad would always feel the glands in my neck to see if I was sick. I don't feel sick right now, but my glands do feel swollen and are a little tender. Could I be sick without knowing? I'm 19 years old, male.
Any questions about your current health or health history can always be addressed with your primary care physician. He or she can make sure that your questions are answered and perform a more thorough physical exam if necessary. There are salivary glands that can be found in your neck and jaw area, but the 'glands' that most people feel for in the neck when a person is feeling unwell are actually lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are sites of white blood cell trafficking, a normal part of the immune surveillance that keeps you from getting sick. When people have upper respiratory infections (the common cold, for example, or something like strep throat), those lymph nodes can swell significantly and become tender to the touch. However, it is also possible for lymph nodes to be a little swollen when a person is not sick. In fact, most adults will have a few lymph nodes that are always a little larger than normal. Overall if you are feeling well--no cough, no fevers, no sore throat, no runny nose, no shortness of breath, no sinus congestion, no earache--then you probably aren't sick. However, since you've noticed some swollen lymph nodes, for your overall health and your own peace of mind, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician so that he or she can make sure nothing else has changed with your health that would be more concerning.
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