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COVID-19: swollen lymph nodes

Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team

Updated on


  • Viral infections such as COVID-19 can cause swollen lymph nodes.
  • Swollen lymph nodes due to COVID-19 usually go away on their own. 
  • COVID-19 vaccine-associated lymphadenopathy is the medical term for swollen lymph nodes after the COVID vaccine.

Swollen lymph nodes can appear due to COVID as a natural reaction of the immune system to vaccination or the viral infection itself. This article will guide you through the connection between COVID and swollen lymph nodes, other possible causes of swollen lymph nodes, and the possibility of swollen lymph nodes after COVID. 

Are swollen lymph nodes a sign of COVID?

In order to understand the effect of COVID on the lymph nodes, it's essential to have a good understanding of the lymphatic system. This system is an integral part of the immune system and consists of lymph nodes, which are small round glands containing white blood cells that fight infection. Lymph nodes can be found throughout the entire body and are more present in certain areas, such as the neck, above the collarbone, the armpit, and the groin.1

In some cases, the lymph nodes can appear swollen. This condition is also medically referred to as lymphadenopathy. The lymph nodes can be swollen for several reasons, one of them being an infection with the coronavirus. COVID-19 usually causes swollen lymph nodes in the neck region.

Can you get swollen lymph nodes after COVID vaccination? 

Swollen lymph nodes are possible after COVID vaccination as vaccination generally causes a reaction of the immune system. In medical literature, the effect of COVID-19 vaccination on the lymph nodes is called COVID-19 vaccine-associated lymphadenopathy (C19-VAL).

The swelling of lymph nodes only happens occasionally after COVID vaccination. This swelling may be tender or painless and can be located in the lymph nodes of the armpit. Even though there's a possibility of swollen lymph nodes after COVID vaccination, the benefits still outweigh the possible side effects. Studies suggest that the swelling of the lymph nodes caused by vaccination also decreases with time.2 3 4

What are other common causes for swollen lymph nodes?

COVID-19 can cause swollen lymph nodes, but several other conditions can cause your lymph nodes to swell. The cause of lymphatic swelling is mostly an immune system reaction, although other possibilities exist. The leading causes of swollen lymph nodes are: 

  • Viral, bacterial, or fungal infections (such as an infection with the coronavirus)
  • Autoimmune disorders (such as sarcoidosis and rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Malignant diseases such as cancers and their treatments
  • Trauma or surgery 

To determine where the swelling in your lymph nodes comes from, your healthcare provider will ask you questions about your medical history and perform a thorough examination. During the physical examination, your healthcare provider will pay specific attention to a few characteristics of the lymph nodes: 5

  • Location: with COVID infections, the lymph nodes may be swollen in the neck region
  • Size: lymph nodes are usually around 1 cm in diameter
  • Firmness: your healthcare provider will assess whether a lymph node is mobile or not
  • Pain: painful swollen lymph nodes are typically due to an infection

If your swollen lymph nodes are due to an infection with the coronavirus or vaccination against the coronavirus, the swelling will be located in the neck region or the armpits. It's also important to consider other symptoms, as distinguishing between the causes of swollen lymph nodes is often challenging. Your swollen lymph nodes may be due to COVID if they're accompanied by some of the following symptoms: 6 7

As swollen lymph nodes often indicate a reaction of the immune system, it’s always best to have them checked by your healthcare physician for adequate advice and treatment.

What to do if my child has swollen lymph nodes after COVID?

Although children tend to have milder symptoms when they have COVID, some cases can be more serious. Some children may develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) after an infection with the coronavirus. MIS-C symptoms may develop weeks after being infected with the coronavirus due to an infection throughout the body. It's essential to seek medical attention if your child presents the following symptoms after a COVID infection: 8

Swollen lymph nodes after COVID can also appear in adults as a rare but severe complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in adults (MIS-A). This can cause similar symptoms as MIS-C.9

How to treat swollen lymph nodes after COVID vaccine

Swollen lymph nodes related to COVID or the COVID vaccine do not have any specific treatment. Lymph nodes that are swollen due to COVID vaccination normally return to their usual size on their own. If your lymph nodes are swollen due to a COVID infection, then it’s important to treat the cause of the infection, which is the coronavirus. This treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms. Mild cases of COVID tend to go away on their own, whereas more severe cases may require antiviral medication

Wrapping up

COVID-19 and its vaccination can cause swelling of the lymph nodes. This is a natural immune system reaction that usually goes away on its own. If your lymph nodes swelling worries you or does not go away, you should visit your general practitioner for advice and treatment. 


Q: Can COVID cause swollen lymph nodes in the neck? 
A: The lymph nodes in the neck can get swollen due to viral infections that target the upper respiratory tract, such as the coronavirus. 

Q: Are swollen lymph nodes a sign of COVID?
A: Swollen lymph nodes can be caused by COVID-19, although it's important to remember that many other conditions can also cause swelling of the lymph nodes. Your healthcare provider can help you by determining the cause of your swelling.  

Q: Does the COVID booster cause lymph node swelling?
A: Vaccines such as the COVID booster trigger an immune response so that the immune system is better prepared if the actual virus enters the body. This immune response may cause swelling of the lymph nodes. 

Q: How to treat swollen lymph nodes after COVID vaccine? 
A: Swollen lymph nodes due to the COVID vaccine usually go away independently without additional treatment.