Mononucleosis, better known as mono or the “kissing disease,” is a common virus. One out of every 2,000 people will get mono each year. Symptoms can be uncomfortable and may even be deadly under certain circumstances. The following information will help you to recognize, avoid, and treat mononucleosis.
Who Can Get Mono
Mono can develop at any age, though it is particularly common in younger people. The most incidences of the infection occur in patients between the ages of 15 and 24. Older adults often develop immunity to the infection, but can pass it on to others. Young children can also get mono, though symptoms can be difficult to detect.
What Causes Mono
Mono is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a common virus that lives in the salivary glands. Most people will come into contact with the virus before age 40. In most cases, the virus causes no problems. In others, it causes mononucleosis. Because the virus lives in the saliva, it can be spread through kissing; sharing toothbrushes; sharing gum; and sharing utensils, dishes, or glasses. The virus can also be spread through mucus or tears.
Common Mono Symptoms
The symptoms for mono do not always appear right away. It may take four to six weeks for symptoms to show themselves. Mono symptoms typically begin with an overall feeling of being tired and sick. A slight sore throat, which usually worsens over time, is common. Other typical symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, stiffness, and loss of appetite. Less common symptoms may include a rash or hives. Severe pain in your upper abdomen can occur as well, because mono sometimes causes swelling of the spleen. If you are experiencing severe pain in this area, you should seek emergency attention. If the spleen swells too much, it can burst and cause a life-threatening situation.
If you have one or more common mono symptoms, you may have the infection. A doctor will be able to help you with the diagnosis by examining you and ordering a monospot test or an EBV antibody test. Both tests can be performed with a small amount of blood. These tests can usually detect the presence of mono, though a false negative can sometimes occur early on in the infection. If your doctor is unsure about the diagnosis, she may run additional tests to rule out cytomegalovirus (CMV) and other infections.
Mononucleosis will usually go away on its own within a few weeks or a couple of months. However, it is important that it is diagnosed so that it is not spread. Treatment is also important. A patient with mono should get lots of rest to combat the fatigue. Tylenol or another fever reducer can be used to keep fevers down and help with general body aches. Gargling with salt water will soothe and heal a sore throat. Your doctor may also prescribe a steroid to help with swollen glands, throat, or tonsils. The same treatment may also be used to lessen the length of the illness. The most important thing is that you take it easy. Do not participate in any vigorous activity–it will make you feel worse and could cause damage to your swollen spleen.
If you have a weakened immune system, discuss additional approaches with your doctor. Mono is rarely fatal, but can cause death in people with weakened immune systems. If your sore throat worsens after 10 days of treatment, contact your doctor. You may have a bacterial infection in your throat. Other complications could include anemia and nervous disorders such as seizures