Mono is a generally mild illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It also known as infectious mononucleosis (IM), glandular fever, or “the kissing disease.” EBV is a strain of herpes virus that most adults have been exposed to during childhood. The symptoms of mono are most often observed in adolescents and young adults.
What are the symptoms of mono?
From the time of contact until the symptoms of mono can be seen is roughly four to eight weeks. During this duration, known as the incubation period, there are no symptoms. It almost impossible to detect during this time. However, after this period, the symptoms of mono are very obvious. The most common include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Unexplained tiredness or fatigue
Many times these symptoms are confused with the flu or strep throat. In addition to the common symptoms of mono, you may also notice:
- Sore muscles
- Skin rash
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
Not all symptoms will be present and will most likely be observed in various combinations. It some cases, especially teens, the symptoms of mono could be so mild that they are barely noticeable. It is important that a doctor be seen and blood work done to confirm the presence of mono.
How is mono spread?
Mono is mildly contagious and spread by contact with saliva of individuals infected with the virus. Contact with saliva can be through:
- sharing drinks
- sharing eating utensils
- sharing cigarettes
- intimate contact such as kissing
The former is where the common name “kissing disease” comes from.
How long does mono last?
In most cases the symptoms of mono last anywhere from one to four weeks. This will vary from individual to individual. There are however, cases where symptoms last for several months. This is not typical.
What is the treatment for mono?
There is not a cure or prescribed medication for mono. Most individuals can and do recover on their own. Plenty of rest and fluids are recommended. Tylenol or Ibuprofen can be taken for sore throats, fever, aches and pain. Aspirin should be avoided as it can lead to complications. When the general symptoms disappear, it is important to avoid sports and exercise for at least a month. Vigorous activity can lead to a ruptured spleen. Simply take it easy.
What complications can occur with mono?
Mono hepatitis or inflammation of the liver and jaundice can occur in some individuals. In rare cases hospitalization may be necessary. This is required if the individual becomes dehydrated from nausea and vomiting. Women should temporarily discontinue the use of oral contraceptives until mono hepatitis is resolved.
Step infections can occur in some cases. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the strep virus. However, antibiotics will not cure or treat EBV.
A ruptured spleen is the most severe and most rare complication associated with mono. A ruptured spleen can be identified by pain in the upper abdomen that radiates to the left shoulder. The pain is often worse when inhaling. Eventually the pain will spread to the entire abdomen. Immediate medical attention is required. In most cases, when a spleen is ruptured, it is due to over exertion from activities such as sports or the individual receiving a direct blow to the spleen.
How to prevent mono?
The best way to prevent mono is to avoid those who have its symptoms. Especially intimate contact such as kissing. Avoid sharing food or drinks with others and practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently with warm soap and water. In addition, maintain a healthy diet and regular sleep. All of these will minimize your risk of infection.