Mononucleosis

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sore throatHave you ever heard of “the kissing disease”? Mononucleosis (pronounced mon-o-nuke-lee-o-sis, or “Mono” for short) got this nickname because people can pass it through their saliva when they kiss. Kissing isn’t the only way you can catch Mono, though.

What is Mono?

Mono is the name of an infection that is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). EBV is a very common virus that many people are exposed to when they’re young. The greatest number of people get Mono when they are between 15 and 17 years old. Some people with EBV might not have symptoms, but may still carry the virus and infect other people, causing them to develop Mono.

How does someone get Mono?

Kissing a person that has the Epstein Barr virus (EBV) is just one way of getting Mono. There are other ways you can get it, and they all involve coming in contact with body fluids (especially saliva) of someone who has the virus.

The virus can be passed through:

  • A drink (water bottle, cup, etc.)
  • A toothbrush
  • A fork or spoon
  • Lip balm, lip gloss, or lipstick
  • Sexual contact

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), viruses that cause Mono can also be spread through blood and semen during sexual contact, blood transfusions and organ transplantations.

What are the symptoms of Mono?

People who have Mono may have different combinations of symptoms, including:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Extreme tiredness/weakness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Headache
  • Swollen glands
  • Sore muscles/body aches
  • Swollen spleen and/or liver (in advanced cases)
If you have a sore throat, swollen glands, and fever, see your health care provider and get checked out.

Is there a test for Mono?

Your health care provider (HCP) may suggest that you are likely to have Mono based on your symptoms and examination such as sore throat, swollen tonsils with white patches, swollen lymph nodes (in your neck), fever and fatigue. Your liver and spleen may be enlarged and sore, and some people get a rash especially if taking antibiotics such as amoxicillin. To make a diagnosis of mono, your HCP will check your blood count and a special “mono spot test.” This test can stay positive for a year after mono so if your HCP is not sure about whether you have mono, he/she may order a blood test that can show whether you have antibodies against EBV (Epstein Barr Virus) which case mono.

How long will I be sick with Mono?

If you have a fever it will usually go away within 10 days. If you have an enlarged liver or spleen, it will usually become normal in 4-6 weeks. Other Mono symptoms go away after 2-4 weeks (the length of time varies for each person), but you may continue to feel very tired for 3-6 months, or even longer.

What is the treatment for Mono?

Unfortunately there isn’t a medicine or pill that can get rid of Mono, but there are things you can to do feel better.

Things you can do to help yourself feel better while you have Mono:

  • Get lots of rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Gargle with salt water (but don’t swallow), drink tea with honey, try throat lozenges, or suck on an ice pop if you have a sore throat
  • Ask your health care provider if you can take a small dose of acetominaphen or ibuprofen for pain or fever

When can I get back to school and sports?

You can go back to school when you feel better, which may take a few days to a few weeks. However, you’ll probably still feel tired for a few weeks. Most people get better within a month, but you may need to talk with your teachers or principal if your Mono symptoms are severe and are causing you to miss a lot of school. You should NOT participate in contact sports for at least 4 weeks or until you are completely well to lessen the chance of your spleen getting hurt.

Is there any way to prevent getting Mono?

You can’t always prevent getting mono, but you can lessen your chance by: not sharing your toothbrush, dishes, utensils, and water bottles, and don’t share drinks. If someone you know has Mono, be very careful not to share any of these items with them and don’t kiss them either.

If I have Mono, how can I prevent giving it to someone else?

To prevent giving the virus to someone else:

  • Cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze
  • Don’t share your food, drinks, eating utensils, tooth brush, or any kind of lip product
  • Don’t kiss while you are sick (Mono can spread through saliva)
  • Don’t have sexual contact with someone who has Mono
Even though there’s no quick way to get rid of Mono, you will probably feel better in a few weeks. The good news is that once you’ve had it, you probably won’t get it again.