Yet another medical question on the internet
June 14, 2009 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Swollen lymph nodes, general ickiness... you are not my doctor, but do I really need to see one?

So I've been more than mildly sick the past few days. It started with a run of the mill stuffy nose last Tuesday or so, grew to incorporate a sore throat, then the sore throat went away but a cough emerged (probably from post-nasal drip?). Friday was the worst, some chills but I don't think I had a fever (my temperature tends to run a teeny bit below average normally, so it takes ubersickness for me to run a fever), extreme fatigue, generally feeling out of it and sick, and my lymph nodes in my neck swelled to to the point of being painful. Yesterday I felt a lot better and thought I was on the mend, but today the swelling came back, and is still pretty ouchy. I'm still coughing and exhausted, but the latter could partially be from a lousy night's sleep last night. No fever.

So, first, is there anything I can do to decrease the uncomfortable feeling of swollen lymph nodes? Second, it seems like a fairly standard cold/flu, but googling is giving me OMG-cytokine storm-swine flu paranoia. I don't want to waste a doctor's time if it's silly to try to see one tomorrow, but if the consensus is to get to a doctor, I'll heed that call.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If your fever breaks, there's little point in going to see a doctor. If the fever persists, do see one.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:12 PM on June 14, 2009

If the fever goes away and stays away, and the lymph nodes calm down, then you're fine.

If the lymph nodes persist and stay painful, go to your doctor. If the fever/chills come and go on and off, go see your doctor. If you get sicker, see your doctor.
And this is just vast generalizations, too. There are lots of other factors including history of bug bites or animal exposures, underlying health, etc etc etc. But generally speaking, above is a reasonable basis.

Hope you feel better soon though!
posted by davidnc at 6:19 PM on June 14, 2009

Make sure to drink a lot of fluids. My nodes seem to be particularly sensitive to any abuse of my body (not getting enough sleep for more than one night in a row, dehydration, mild illness), and that always seems to help. Cliche I know, but chicken noodle soup seems to help, too.
posted by ishotjr at 6:20 PM on June 14, 2009

So, first, is there anything I can do to decrease the uncomfortable feeling of swollen lymph nodes?

You can take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve the pain/tenderness/inflammation, and gently apply warm compresses to the affected area for some relief.

In terms of what swollen lymph nodes "mean"....that's hard to determine even with a face to face physical exam, sometimes. My *guess* is that if this illness has only been a few days in progress, and if it doesn't feel (to you) like much more than your standard cold/flu, and you are not currently running a temp - you're probably okay self-treating at home with fluids, rest, and OTC anti-inflammatory meds.

(Of course, if the symptoms persist - see your doctor.)
posted by arachnid at 6:27 PM on June 14, 2009

swollen lymph nodes meant mono for me back when I was in college
posted by betsybetsy at 8:14 PM on June 14, 2009

This is exactly how I felt before I was diagnosed with mono (glandular fever) last year. By the way, my first mono test came up negative; less than a week later, my second mono test came up positive.
posted by transporter accident amy at 1:21 AM on June 15, 2009

Oops, I should have said: there's no treatment for mono, but my doctor gave me some nice pain killers that helped me sleep when my throat was really, really sore. So it was worth seeing the doctor.
posted by transporter accident amy at 1:22 AM on June 15, 2009

Thanks everyone! I know this is a "just ask your mother" kind of question, but that's not an option for me. I appreciate it.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 5:21 AM on June 15, 2009

Your symptoms sound viral, and there's nothing much that can be done about that. If your glands become swollen to the point where you can't swollen, go to the ER to see if you need fluids to prevent dehydration.

If you develop a high fever - or really any fever for more than a day, go to the doctor as that can be a sign of a bacterial infection, which can be treated with antibiotics.

For a virus, you're really best off at home with lots of fluids. Take some ibuprofen for the swelling/pain. Try to relax. Don't google your symptoms, it's only going to lead to worry! (And if it is mono... nothing to be done about that but wait it out, unfortunately.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:22 AM on June 15, 2009

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