What is mononucleosis?
Mononucleosis, also called
"mono," is a common illness that can leave you feeling tired and weak for
weeks or months. Mono goes away on its own, but lots of rest and good self-care
can help you feel better.
What causes mono?
Mono usually is caused by the
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It is most often seen in
teens and young adults. Children can get the virus, but it often goes
unnoticed because their symptoms are mild. Older adults usually do not get mono,
because they have
immunity to the virus.
Mono can be
spread through contact with saliva, mucus from the nose and throat, and
sometimes tears. Because the virus can be spread through kissing, it has earned
the nickname the "kissing disease." If you have mono, you can avoid passing the
virus to others by not kissing anyone and by not sharing things like drinking glasses,
eating utensils, or toothbrushes.
As soon as you get over mono,
your symptoms will go away for good, but you will always carry the virus that
caused it. The virus may become active from time to time without causing any
symptoms. When the virus is active, it can be spread to others.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of
mono are a high fever, a severe sore throat, swollen glands and tonsils, and
weakness and fatigue. Symptoms usually start 4 to 6 weeks after you are exposed
to the virus.
Mono can cause the spleen to swell. Severe pain in
the upper left part of your belly may mean that your spleen has burst. This is
How is mono diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you
questions about your symptoms and will examine you. You may also need blood tests to
check for signs of mono (monospot test) and the Epstein-Barr virus. Blood tests
can also help rule out other causes of your symptoms.
How is it treated?
Usually only self-care is
needed for mono.
- Get plenty of rest. You may need bed rest,
which could keep you away from school or work for a little
- Gargle with salt water or use throat lozenges to soothe your
- Take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen
(such as Advil) to reduce fever and relieve a sore throat and headaches. Never give aspirin to someone younger than age 20 years, because it can cause Reye syndrome.
- Avoid contact sports and heavy lifting. Your
spleen may be enlarged, and impact or straining could
cause it to burst.
In severe cases, medicines called
corticosteroids may be used to reduce swelling of the
throat, tonsils, or spleen.
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