Mononucleosis, usually known as mono, is a common illness that many people may run into during their lifetime. Sometimes people even refer to it as the kissing disease, this condition affects mostly children and teenagers. Mono is fairly contagious, but not as contagious as the flu or the common cold. The good news is, most people will be exposed to mono by the time they reach adulthood by building antibodies, which can prevent symptoms and illness later in life. Mono is different from the common cold in that it has quite a long incubation period, from four to six weeks. The younger the child is though, the shorter the incubation period. The long incubation period is typically the reason that mono spreads so quickly among school aged children.
Causes of Mono
Mono is caused by a member of the herpes virus family known as the Epstein-Barr virus. Most people are exposed to the Epstein Barr virus by adulthood and have antibodies built up. Since mono is known as the kissing disease, it is commonly spread through saliva. This means you cannot get mono by breathing in the same room as someone. Lots of people get it from kissing or intimate facial contact, but you can also get mono from sharing utensils and drinking or eating after someone. Other viruses can cause mono, but Epstein Barr is the most likely culprit, especially in younger children. Some other viruses can cause mono via contact with other bodily fluids like blood or semen during sexual intercourse. Organ or blood transfusions can also bring on cases of mono, though less common.
Signs and Symptoms of Mono
Mono is not a one size fits all condition, people may experience different symptoms at different severity. Common symptoms included:
- Skin rash
- Fatigue- If you or your child feels more tired than normal, mono could be a possibility.
- Swollen spleen or tonsils
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes in neck or armpits
- Soft spleen
- Elevated white blood cell count with no known cause
- Chills and aches
- Red throat
- White patches on tonsils
- Poor appetite
- Light sensitivity
Many of these symptoms overlap with other conditions like strep throat, the common cold, the flu, or tonsillitis. It's important to see a medical provider for a proper diagnosis so unnecessary antibiotics and other treatments can be avoided.
Treatment and Recovery
First things first, there is no antiviral that can treat mono specifically. However, there are measures that you can take at home to start feeling better. It's important to get as much rest as possible, seeing that mono makes many people very tired. Sleeping can help give your body time to heal and fight the infection better. Dehydration can also occur while you're ill, making drinking water and juice necessary. Avoiding physical activity is a must, and anti-inflammatory drugs may help ease symptoms. If you come down with a sore throat, you can gargle salt water or use some over the counter remedies to feel better.
If your mono worsens or isn't improving after a while, consult a physician. During this time, it is important to not attend work or school and to avoid sharing materials or kissing others.