The virus spreads through saliva, which is why it’s sometimes called “kissing disease.” Mono occurs most often in teens and young adults. However, you can get it at any age.
Sometimes you may also have a swollen spleen. Serious problems are rare.
A blood test can show if you have mono. Most people get better in two to four weeks. However, you may feel tired for a few months afterward. Treatment focuses on helping symptoms and includes medicines for pain and fever, warm salt water gargles and plenty of rest and fluids.
People with mono may be contagious while they have symptoms and for up to a few months afterwards. How long someone with the disease is contagious varies. The virus can live for several hours outside the body. Avoid kissing or sharing utensils if you or someone close to you has mono.
Mono is often spread by saliva and close contact. It is known as “the kissing disease.” Mono occurs most often in people ages 15 to 17, but the infection may develop at any age.
Mono is usually linked to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Rarely, it is caused by other viruses, 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. Often, the lymph nodes in the neck are swollen and painful.
A pink, measles-like rash can occur, and is more likely if you take the medicine ampicillin or amoxicillin for a throat infection. (Antibiotics should NOT be given without a test that shows you have a strep infection.)
Common symptoms of mono include:
- General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle aches or stiffness
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes, most often in the neck and armpit
Less common symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Jaundice (yellow color to the skin and whites of the eyes)
- Neck stiffness
- Rapid heart rate
- Sensitivity to light
- Shortness of breath
The fever usually drops in 10 days, and swollen lymph glands and spleen heal in 4 weeks. Tiredness usually goes away within a few weeks, but it may linger for 2 to 3 months.
The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. Steroid medicine (prednisone) may be given if symptoms are severe.
Antiviral drugs have little or no benefit.
To relieve typical symptoms:
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Gargle with warm salt water to ease a sore throat.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain and fever.
You should also avoid contact sports if your spleen is swollen (to prevent it from rupturing).
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