Getting Through Mononucleosis


What is mononucleosis?

Mononucleosis (mono) is an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Signs of mono include fever, sore throat, headaches, white patches on the back of your throat, swollen glands in your neck, feeling tired and not feeling hungry.

How is mononucleosis passes?

The virus is found in saliva and mucus. It can be passed from one person to another through coughing, sneezing and kissing. Signs of mono usually develop four to seven weeks after you’re exposed to the virus. Generally, people only get mono once. It is most common in people 15 to 35 years old.

Does mononucleosis have any complications?

Sometimes. The main serious concern with mono is that the spleen will enlarge and even rupture. Although a ruptured spleen is rare in people with mono, it’s wise to be aware of the signs and call the Health Center right away if you notice any of them:

  • pain in the upper left part of your abdomen
  • feeling lightheaded
  • feeling like your heart is beating hard and fast
  • bleeding more easily than usual
  • having trouble breathing

Can mononucleosis be cured?

No, but mono will go away on its own. Symptoms usually last about four weeks.

How is mononucleosis treated?

The main point of treatment is to relieve your symptoms. The following list includes tips on treatment:

  • Rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids (alcohol NOT included)
  • If you have a sore throat, gargle with salt water or suck on lozenges, hard candy or frozen desserts (popsicles are good)
  • You may want to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain and fever. Aspirin should be avoided because it is associated with Reye’s syndrome in children and young adults. Reye’s is a serious illness that can lead to death.

Do I need an antibiotic?

Antibiotics like penicillin are of no help in mono, because mono is a virus and antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Your clinician may give you an antibiotic if you have a bacterial infection in addition to having mono.

What about sports and exercise?

Avoid sports activities or exercise of any kind until the clinician tells you it’s safe.

Anything else?

NO ALCOHOL!!! Because enlargement of the spleen and liver may occur with this disease, alcohol should be avoided.

This information was made available by the American Academy of Family Physicians.