Mononucleosis, or "mono," has a wide range of symptoms, which can make it hard to diagnose. You’ll need to see your doctor to find out if you have it.
Your doctor will give you a complete physical exam. You may get a throat culture to rule out strep throat, which has symptoms that are similar to mono. Your doctor may also take a sample of blood to check for abnormal white blood cells.
You may also get a heterophile antibody test, a rapid and specific test for mono. It checks your blood for special antibodies that your body makes to fight off a viral infection. This test isn’t always accurate, especially in younger children, and it takes several days for it to show the presence of the antibodies after a child starts to feel ill. The “monospot” is one test that checks for heterophile antibodies.
Sometimes the test may be negative if it was done too early. It can be repeated after 2 weeks, or more tests may be needed.
You may also get an EBV test if you don’t seem to have a typical case of mono. This blood test checks for Epstein Barr virus. Doctors usually don’t need EBV test results to diagnose mono. But it can help them find out if the Epstein Barr virus is to blame. It’s a common virus, and although it can cause mono, you could have the virus and not be sick.
When Will I Get Better?
Most people start to recover from mononucleosis within 2 weeks, though some symptoms, such as fatigue, can take 3-4 weeks or even longer to go away. So a common treatment plan for mono is rest with a gradual return to normal activity. The goal is to ease your symptoms and treat any complications that happen.
In addition to rest, your doctor may prescribe ibuprofen or acetaminophen for the fever, sore throat, and other discomforts of the illness. In case mono has affected your liver, check with your doctor before you take acetaminophen.
Don’t give aspirin to children or teens. It’s been linked to a disease called Reye's syndrome, a serious illness that can be life-threatening. Call 911 if you or your child is having any trouble breathing.
If your sore throat is so severe that you have trouble breathing or eating, your doctor may give you prednisone, a steroid.
Since your spleen, which is an organ in your abdomen, often becomes enlarged when you have mono, it’s more likely to rupture. So you will need to avoid contact sports such as football and soccer, probably for about 3-4 weeks. Your doctor can let you know when it’s OK to get back to those activities.