This is a viral illness that usually results in fever, sore throat and swollen glands. It is spread by close contact with an infected person.

This is a viral illness that usually results in fever, sore throat and swollen glands. It is spread by close contact with an infected person.

Mononucleosis, or "mono," is a viral infection typically caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or cytomegalovirus (CMV). The virus is spread by close contact with an infected person, especially with their saliva. The length of time someone with mono is contagious varies, but it can be up to several months. If someone has symptoms of mono, or is recovering from mono, you should avoid kissing them or sharing their food, beverages or eating utensils.

  • Although it can occur at any age, mono is typically seen in adolescents and young adults.
  • Although mono is commonly known as the "kissing disease," it may be spread by other forms of close contact with someone who has the infection.

The symptoms of mono usually begin gradually and start with a headache, sore throat and general fatigue. The symptoms gradually worsen. Frequently, a white or yellow discharge can be seen on the tonsils, which are typically swollen and red. People who have mono often feel very poorly. Other symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • General body aches and discomfort
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (especially toward the back of the neck and underarms)
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Occasionally people with mono develop symptoms that resemble hepatitis. A pink rash, that resembles the measles, can also develop. This is more common if you are taking an antibiotic like amoxicillin for a positive strep test. (Antibiotics should only be given for a sore throat if you have a POSITIVE strep test.)

If you have symptoms of mono, your healthcare provider will most likely perform an in-office test for mono. A test called "antibody titer" may also be ordered to determine if this is a current or past infection. The goal of treatment is to relieve the symptoms and allow the body time to heal. Antiviral drugs are not helpful in treating mono and antibiotics are only needed if there is secondary bacterial infection. There are some things you can do to relieve your symptoms and prevent complications of mono.

  • Make sure you drink an adequate amount of fluids.
  • Salt water gargling can help relieve a sore throat.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Take over-the-counter medications (acetaminophen or ibuprofen) to help reduce your pain or fever.

It is important that you avoid any contact sports or activities that might put excess pressure on the spleen and cause it to rupture. A ruptured spleen is one of the serious consequences of a mononucleosis infection and can be life threatening.

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you or your child has symptoms of mono. It is important that you make sure all activity is kept at a minimum.

  • Before your appointment, make a list of the patient's medical history, including past illnesses, surgeries and hospitalizations. List all medications (including over-the-counter) and any questions or concerns you want to discuss.
  • During your appointment, ask about your overall health, what symptoms you might have and when you may start to see improvement. Ask what the follow-up plans are, if any, and what symptoms you should report before your next appointment.
  • After your appointment, you should know the diagnosis, what tests you might need, the reason for those tests and if the test results will change your treatment plan. You should also understand your treatment plan, any possible alternatives and what medications are recommended (including possible side effects).
  • If your healthcare provider wants you to take a medication, ask if an over-the-counter product is right for you.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication for you, ask for a generic version. If your doctor thinks that a generic version is not right for you, ask for a medication on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL).


Also known as:

Swollen Spleen
Sore Throat
Kissing Disease
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