When an individual consumes alcohol, a number of effects take place in the body. What’s more, many of these effects can be felt the next day after drinking – depending on how much alcohol is consumed, the type of alcohol consumed and a series of individual factors.

One such consequence of drinking is swollen lymph nodes. But what exactly are the symptoms of this and is it normal? Here we explore everything there is to know – find out if swollen lymph nodes after drinking are normal here.

The Connection Between Alcohol and Lymph Nodes

Some noticeable and common effects associated with alcohol consumption include headaches, dizziness, sickness, intense emotions and hangovers. But, another lesser-known symptom of drinking alcohol is the swelling of the lymph nodes.

Lymph nodes are small structures that are shaped like beans and have an important function in our overall immune system. Known as the body’s motorway, they work hard to remove any harmful substances around the body and are essential to helping the body combat and prevent any infections. More research has been carried out in recent years as it was frequently observed that lymph nodes become swollen after alcohol consumption in some people.

Understanding Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swollen lymph nodes are officially called lymphadenopathy. This is diagnosed when the lymph nodes have increased in size, which is common because of a response in the immune system. The most common cause of swollen lymph nodes is because of an infection but it can also occur as a result of autoimmune diseases, certain medications and in some cases cancer.

Some of the most common signs of swollen lymph nodes include localised swelling – ranging from the size of a pea to a cherry – tenderness and pain in the area, redness and warmth.

Lymph nodes can be found in various parts of the body including under the jaw, on either side of the neck, near the ear, in the armpits, and in the groin.

If you want to check your own lymph nodes, start around your head and neck. Gently feel in front of your ear and then move to just behind your ear. Next, you can gently feel under your jaw, then under the chin, and down your neck. You should look out for any small lumps and bumps. Next up, raise your arm and use your fingers to push against the chest wall and also in your armpits.

There are also lymph nodes in the groin which are easiest to find when lying down. Simply feel in the crease between your leg and pelvis and along the inner thigh. When you are checking your entire body, use the pads of your fingers instead of the tips and move them in a circular motion.

While lymph node swelling can occur for various reasons, it could also be a result of a more serious health condition. For this reason, if you have swollen lymph nodes for more than a couple of weeks, or they are accompanied by other symptoms, it’s important to speak to a medical professional to get a diagnosis.

The Impact of Alcohol on the Immune System

Alcohol can have huge effects all over the body including on someone’s physical and mental health. However, few people realise that alcohol can have a big impact on the immune system which is why it can also cause swollen lymph nodes. In large amounts, alcohol can affect the body’s natural ability to fight off and prevent infections, which can make some people more prone to illnesses. This effect then extends to the lymphatic system, which includes the lymph nodes.

In short, when an immune system response is triggered anywhere around the body – be it an infection, injury or inflammation – lymph nodes work overtime to get rid of the cause, which can result in them becoming swollen.

Are Swollen Lymph Nodes After Drinking Normal?

While alcohol can cause havoc in the immune system, which can then cause lymph node inflammation, it’s important to note that the direct link between alcohol consumption and swollen lymph nodes isn’t prevalent in the majority of drinkers. However, there are some cases where individuals will experience swollen lymph nodes after drinking either due to excessive alcohol consumption or due to an allergic reaction to alcohol or the components in it.

Research and studies into the correlation between the two are still in their infancy but experts believe it could be a result of the body’s inflammatory response or an individual sensitivity in some people. Either way, it’s important to note that frequent swelling of the lymph nodes after drinking or in general could be a cause for concern – find out more about swollen lymph glands.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you notice swollen lymph nodes after drinking or you are aware that a loved one is experiencing this symptom, it’s important to monitor the situation and symptoms. If, however, the below occurs, you should consult a health professional quickly:

  • You have swollen lymph nodes for more than two weeks
  • You have additional symptoms like night sweats, fevers, chills or unexplained weight loss
  • The swelling feels hard or fixed in place
  • You are suffering with worsening pain or swelling
  • You have consumed a lot of alcohol or you are experiencing additional unusual reactions to alcohol consumption.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek help.

Get in Touch

While the direct link between swollen lymph nodes after drinking isn’t generally experienced, studies have shown that some people do experience it as a symptom. What’s more, it’s important to listen to your body and if you are experiencing any unusual symptoms after alcohol consumption, it’s wise to get in touch with a medical professional. One of the best ways to maintain good health is to drink responsibly and also understand your body’s natural reactions to alcohol.

If you are concerned about your own alcohol consumption or that of a loved one, it’s crucial to reach out for support. At Ocean Recovery Centre, we offer help and resources for those in need and can support you through addiction diagnosis, alcohol addiction treatment, aftercare and relapse prevention. Remember, your health is paramount and there’s no shame in seeking help.

If you have any questions or perhaps want to discuss the available treatment options in your area, our friendly and professional team would be delighted to help – call us on 0800 880 7596 or fill out our contact form.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: August 18, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.