Infectious Mononucleosis (Mono) Information
Synopsis: Mono, often referred to as the kissing disease, is transmitted through saliva, a sneeze or cough or by sharing a food utensil or a glass with someone who has the virus. A doctor will look for signs such as swelling of the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, tonsils, and consider how the signs relate to the ones a person describes. The majority of adults who have been exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus have built up antibodies and are immune - they will not get mono again.
What is Mono?
Mononucleosis (Mono) is a viral infection causing fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph glands, especially in the neck. It is known as "the kissing disease," and occurs most often in those age 15 to 17. However, the infection may develop at any age. The virus that causes mono is transmitted through a person's saliva and people can get it through kissing, although people can also be exposed to the virus through a sneeze or a cough, or by sharing a food utensil or a glass with someone who has the virus.
Mono is usually linked to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), but can also be caused by other organisms such as cytomegalovirus (CMV). Mono may begin slowly with fatigue, a general ill feeling, headache, and sore throat. The sore throat slowly gets worse. Your tonsils become swollen and develop a whitish-yellow covering. The lymph nodes in the neck are frequently swollen and painful. A pink, measles-like rash can occur and is more likely if you take the medicines ampicillin or amoxicillin for a throat infection. (Antibiotics should NOT be given without a positive Strep test.) Mono is not as contagious as some kinds of infections fortunately, such as the common cold.
People are more likely to get mono with all of the signs and symptoms of they are an adolescent or a young adult. Young children commonly experience few symptoms and the infection many times goes unrecognized. If a person has mono it is important to be careful of certain complications, such as enlargement of the spleen. Adequate fluid intake and plenty of rest are the keys to recovering. The signs and symptoms of mono can include the following:
- A skin rash
- A sore throat
- Swelling of the tonsils
- A soft and swollen spleen
- A general feeling of not being well or malaise
- Swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpits and neck
The virus has an incubation period of around four to six weeks, even though in children who are young the period might be shorter. The signs and symptoms, such as sore throat and fever, often decrease within a couple of weeks. Symptoms such as enlargement of the lymph nodes, fatigue, and a swollen spleen might last for a few weeks longer. If rest and a health diet do not ease these symptoms within a couple of weeks, or if the symptoms recur, it is important to see a doctor.
The cause of mononucleosis is the Epstein-Barr virus. Mono is often not very serious. The majority of adults who have been exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus have built up antibodies and are immune - they will not get mono again.
Tests and Diagnosis of Mononucleosis
A doctor might suspect mono based upon the signs and symptoms a person presents with, how long the symptoms and signs have lasted, as well as a physical examination. The doctor will look for signs such as swelling of the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, tonsils, and consider how the signs relate to the ones a person describes. A doctor may also order blood tests which may include:
White Blood Cell Count:
A doctor might use other blood testing to look for an elevation in the number of white blood cells or abnormal-looking lymphocytes a person has. The tests will not confirm mononucleosis, although they may suggest it is a possibility.
If additional confirmation is needed a, 'monospot test,' might be performed to check a person's blood for antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus. The screening test provides results within one day, although it might not detect the infection in the first week of the person's illness. A different antibody test requires longer to produce results, but has the ability to detect the virus even within the first week the person is experiencing symptoms.
Mononucleosis Treatments and Medications
Unfortunately, there is no specific form of therapy available to treat infectious mononucleosis. Antibiotics do not work against viral infections like mono. Treatment involves mainly drinking lots of fluids and getting plenty of rest. Medication administration in relation to mono is aimed largely at the following:
A doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid such as prednisone to ease symptoms such as severe swelling of a person's tonsils and throat.
Treating Secondary Infections:
On occasion, a strep infection accompanies the sore throat that comes with mono. A person might also develop an infection of their tonsils or sinuses. If this is the case, they might need treatment with antibiotics for the bacterial infections.
Medications and Rash:
Amoxicillin, as well as other derivatives of penicillin, are not recommended for people with mono. Some people with mono who take one of these medications might develop a rash, which does not necessarily mean they are allergic to the antibiotic. If needed, other types of antibiotics that are less likely to cause a rash are available to treat infections that might accompany mono.
Complications that might arise related to mononucleosis may be more serious than the disease itself. The complications that can arise may include the following:
Problems with a person's liver can occur in relation to mono. The issues that might arise include hepatitis, or jaundice.
Enlargement of the Spleen:
Mono might cause enlargement of a person's spleen. In more extreme cases, a person's spleen may actually rupture and cause sharp, sudden pain in the left side of their upper abdomen. If this kind of pain happens it is vital to immediately seek medical attention - the person might require surgery.
While the following complications that may arise due to mononucleosis can include the following:
- Swollen tonsils
- Heart problems
- Nervous system complications such as meningitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, or encephalitis
The Epstein-Barr virus (mono) may also cause far more serious illness in people who have an impaired immune system, such as people with HIV/AIDS, or those who are taking medications to suppress immunity after experiencing an organ transplant.
Advice and Home Care for Mononucleosis
In addition to getting lots of bed rest, that are more things a person can do to relieve the symptoms of mononucleosis. Drink plenty of water and fruit juices; fluids help to relieve sore throat and fever while preventing dehydration. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, the medications do not have antiviral properties but do relieve pain.
Be cautious when administering aspirin to teenagers or children. While aspirin has been approved for use in children who are older than two, teenagers and children who are recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take it. The reason for this is because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition.
Do gargle with salt water. Gargle with salt water several times each day to relieve sore throat. Mix a half a teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water.
Wait to return to sports activities and some other ones. The majority of signs and symptoms of mono will ease within a few weeks, although it might be two to three months before a person feels completely well. The more a person with mono rests, the sooner they should recover. Returning to their regular schedule too soon may increase the risk of a relapse.
In order to avoid the risk of rupturing a spleen, it is important to wait at least a month before returning to activities that are vigorous such as contact sports, heavy lifting, or roughhousing. A ruptured spleen results in severe bleeding and is a medical emergency. A person should ask their doctor when it is safe for them to resume their regular level of activities. A doctor might recommend a gradual exercise program to help rebuild strength.
Mononucleosis is spread through saliva. If a person is infected they can help to prevent the spread of the virus to others by not kissing them, or sharing dishes, food, utensils, or glasses with others until several days after their fever has subsided and if possible - even longer. The Epstein-Barr virus can persist in a person's saliva for months after infection, and no vaccine exists to prevent mononucleosis.
Resources That Provide Relevant Information
- Is Kissing Dangerous to Your Health?
- Tonsillitis Treatment Causes and Symptoms
- Sore Throat: Causes Symptoms and Treatment
Thomas C. Weiss is a researcher and editor for Disabled World. Thomas attended college and university courses earning a Masters, Bachelors and two Associate degrees, as well as pursing Disability Studies. As a Nursing Assistant Thomas has assisted people from a variety of racial, religious, gender, class, and age groups by providing care for people with all forms of disabilities from Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson's; para and quadriplegia to Spina Bifida.
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Disabled World is an independent disability community founded in 2004 to provide disability news and information to people with disabilities, seniors, their family and/or carers. See our homepage for informative reviews, exclusive stories and how-tos. You can connect with us on social media such as X.com and our Facebook page.
Disabled World provides general information only. The materials presented are never meant to substitute for qualified professional medical care, nor should they be construed as such. Funding is derived from advertisements or referral programs. Any 3rd party offering or advertising does not constitute an endorsement.