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Swollen armpit: Is this symptom down to the Covid booster vaccine or something else?

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As adults across Scotland have their Covid boosters, many are reporting a side-effect that wasn’t common after the first two vaccinations.

While fatigue, headaches and feeling a bit off-colour were common symptoms earlier in the year, few people mentioned swelling or lumpiness under their arm, until now.

Cheryl Peebles, a mum-of-two from Kinghorn, Fife, had her booster jag on Monday morning in Kirkcaldy.

“I felt absolutely fine afterwards but late on Wednesday I noticed my right armpit – the arm I got the jag in – felt quite sore and tender,” Cheryl explains.

Cheryl felt a swelling under her arm after the Covid booster.

“I could feel a soft lump in it. It was quite painful to touch and sore when I moved my arm around.

“I was initially alarmed, as anyone would be finding a lump under their arm – with underarm lumps being a symptom of breast cancer.

‘I was relieved when others reported similar symptoms’

“Glands can become swollen when you have a virus or if you are fighting an infection, so I wondered if it could be linked to the vaccine.

“I was pretty relieved when I heard others had reported similar symptoms after having the booster.

Tricia Fox also experienced a swollen underarm after her booster jag.

“My armpit still feels tender but better than yesterday.”

Swollen armpit ‘like a clutchbag under your arm’

Tricia Fox, director of Perth marketing company Cunningly Good Group, says the swelling was “like a clutchbag under your arm for three days”.

She had her booster jag in mid-November and her underarm was swollen within 24 hours of the vaccination.

“It was soft swelling rather than hard lump. It felt uncomfortable but it didn’t cause me any pain,” she explains.

“I had glandular fever when I was younger, so I remember the feeling of swollen lymph glands very well.

Tricia felt a little under the weather for a couple of days after the booster but took over-the-counter painkillers to ease her symptoms.

“I knew my immune system was doing its job and responding to the vaccine,” she says.

“Nature took its course. I felt right as rain within a few days, and happier knowing I’d boosted my own immune system against this nasty virus.”

How can I tell if it’s the vaccine causing the swelling or something else?

Swollen lymph nodes are bean-sized swellings under your arms, jaw or in your groin.

They can be caused by common viral infections such as the cold, flu, skin wounds, a dental abscess, ear or throat infections – or in response to any vaccine.

These swellings signal your body’s immune system kicking into action.

NHS Inform states: “An uncommon side effect is swollen glands in the armpit or neck, on the same side as the arm of your vaccine.

“This can last for around 10 days, but if it lasts longer see your doctor.”

Most swollen lymph nodes will not be a cause for concern.

But if they are larger than an inch or accompanied by other symptoms they could be a sign of autoimmune conditions, bacterial or viral infections or cancer.

If you experience weightloss, long-lasting fever or tiredness, inflamed skin, a swollen collarbone or they are very painful and hard, you should see your doctor.

Covid Scotland: How much protection do my vaccines and booster give against Omicron?

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