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Cervical lymphadenitis: etiology, diagnosis, and management.

Cervical lymphadenopathy is a common problem in children. The condition most commonly represents a transient response to a benign local or generalized infection. Acute bilateral cervical lymphadenitis is usually caused by a viral upper respiratory tract infection or streptococcal pharyngitis. Acute unilateral cervical lymphadenitis is caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal infection in 40% to 80% of cases. Common causes of subacute or chronic lymphadenitis include cat-scratch disease and mycobacterial infection. Generalized lymphadenopathy is often caused by a viral infection, and less frequently by malignancies, collagen vascular diseases, and medications. Laboratory tests are not necessary in most children with cervical lymphadenopathy. Most cases of cervical lymphadenitis are self-limited and require no treatment. The treatment of acute bacterial cervical lymphadenitis without a known primary source should provide adequate coverage for both Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes.

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