Are swollen lymph nodes normal after getting the COVID vaccine?

swollen lymph nodes, COVID vaccination
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According to radiologists at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), swollen lymph nodes after COVID vaccination are a “normal reaction that typically goes away with time”

According to medical imaging experts, the side effect of swollen lymph nodes after taking any of the COVID vaccines is a normal reaction. They expect that this will go away with time for the majority of people.

Other common post-vaccine symptoms are:

  • Tenderness, pain, warmth, redness, itching, swelling or bruising where the injection is given
  • Generally feeling unwell
  • Feeling tired (fatigue)
  • Chills or feeling feverish
  • Headache
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Joint pain or muscle ache

And some less common side effects are:

  • Feeling dizzy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Excessive sweating, itchy skin or rash

Lead author Constance Lehman, MD, PhD, chief of Breast Imaging, co-director of the Avon Comprehensive Breast Evaluation Center at MGH, and professor at Harvard Medical School, commented: “Our practical management plan extends the impact of our recommendations to the full spectrum of patients having imaging tests after vaccination.”

As COVID vaccination gets fully going in the population, the experts warn that there will be a rise in visibly swollen lymph nodes in imaging exams for other diseases. They highly recommend that imaging centres have access to vaccination information for a patient, so that the image can be interpreted with that side effect in mind.

Generally, nobody with swollen lymph nodes after their vaccine needs to be further investigated.

The exception is when there are other cancer symptoms

The only exception is when the patient has other health issues or the swelling stays for a significant amount of time, without easing. The healthcare professionals suggest that where there is a strong concern for cancer in the lymph nodes before imaging is even performed, there should be more tests taken.

Leslie Lamb, MD, breast imaging specialist at MGH and co-author of the study, commented: “In a patient with a recent cancer diagnosis, the patient’s full care team and the radiologist can work together to determine how best to manage nodes that appear abnormal on imaging after a recent vaccination.

“That way, they can tailor care to the individual patient.”


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