The Kissing Disease

Get the facts about infectious mononucleosis.

“So, who have you been kissing?”

Anyone with a positive mono test will likely be asked this question as a joke. Since infectious mononucleosis, called mono for short, is spread through the saliva, it earned the nickname “the kissing disease.” However, the virus is no joke and it brings no pleasure. Causing weakness and fatigue that can last for weeks or even months on end, a battle with mono will make you feel like you’ve been hit by an 18-wheeler truck.

Read on to learn more about infectious mononucleosis.

Mono Symptoms

Mono is known for making you feel tired and dragged out. A fever, sore throat, body aches, rash, swollen lymph glands (in the neck and armpits), enlarged tonsils, and loss of appetite normally accompany the fatigue.

Since one of the jobs of the spleen is to defend your body against infection, it works overtime when fighting mono and may become swollen. Though rare, your spleen can burst, resulting in a dangerous medical emergency.

Symptoms usually last two to four weeks, but you may continue to feel fatigued days or weeks after the fever and sore throat are gone. Some people have been known to suffer from mono for longer than six months and have even required hospitalization.

Communicative Cause

Mono is caused by exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Teens and young adults are most susceptible (one in four will show symptoms), but anyone at any age can get mono. Most young children who come in contact with this virus don’t show symptoms or the symptoms are mild enough to go undetected. Whether you get symptoms or not, nearly everyone has been exposed to EBV. After exposure, your body develops antibodies to build up your immunity to the virus.

This is why mono is rare in adults. After infection or exposure, the virus lays dormant in your body with a small chance of becoming active again at a later date. You may not know it’s active, but you’ll be contagious when it is.
EBV can be spread not only through saliva, but through mucous and tears as well. So practice good hygiene and don’t share makeup, drinking glasses, or eating utensils. The incubation period before symptoms appear is four to six weeks.

Trying Treatment

See your doctor if you’re under the weather and suspect mono. If blood tests reveal a positive diagnosis, you’ll need plenty of rest and TLC to feel better. There’s no vaccine to prevent mono, no cure, and antibiotics are ineffective at treating a virus, so treatment is focused on symptom control. Take over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and Tylenol to reduce fever and pain, drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration, gargle with salt water for a sore throat, and get all the sleep you can. Severe cases of mono may benefit from a corticosteroid shot or medication to ease symptoms.

The more you’re able to rest, the sooner you can expect to feel better. Be patient as you recover. Otherwise, you’ll wind up doing too much too soon, which can cause the virus to worsen or relapse. Stay home to heal and avoid close contact with others, but don’t worry about quarantining yourself since most people are already immune to EBV.

Because an enlarged spleen is often a concern with mono, it’s important to avoid heavy lifting and contact sports like basketball or football while healing from the virus. Too much pressure or injury increases the chances of the spleen rupturing.



Allan Alguire

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