Jan 23, 2002
Dear Dr. Bob. My lymph nodes get swollen pretty often (HIV+ for a few years, not on meds yet due to good numbers) so I was wondering if there is anything that needs to be done when glands become enlarged and painful. I mean, perhaps, I should be taking an antibiotic or just drink hot tea with lemon, etc. I understand the reasons behind it but is there anything I can do to help my immune system fight the virus when this happens? Many thanks from London, UK.
Response from Dr. Frascino
Hey London, UK,
Good news that your numbers are holding and you haven't needed meds yet. At this point, your immune system is doing all the fighting for you. The lymph glands are the "organs" of the immune system and when they get busy fighting an invader, they tend to swell and can be a bit tender, but usually not painful. In one sense, the fact that they are swollen is good news in that it means your immune system is still putting up a valiant battle. Should you take an antibiotic to help it? Nope. Remember, HIV is a virus. Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. Now, if you have strep throat or a bacterial sinus infections, etc., then yes, absolutely, take a course of antibiotics to help with those kinds of "bacterial" infections. But if it's just HIV, antibiotics won't help. Hot tea with lemon? Well, that sounds divine and when served with proper crumpets (probably from Harrods), it always makes me feel better. Does it do anything for the swollen glands and HIV? Nope, but a spot of tea never hurt either. So what can you do for your immune system? General good health measures - balanced diet, plenty of rest, a good exercise program, decreased stress, not smoking, plenty of good theatre in The West End - you know, things like that. We are working on therapeutic vaccines that hopefully some day will be able to use to help bolster our immune system's response to the virus, but unfortunately, that's still a ways off.
Good luck. Stay well.
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