What is Mononucleosis?
Infectious Mononucleosis, sometimes called 'mono' or the 'kissing disease', is an infection that is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). EBV is very common. Most people become infected with it at some point in their lives, but not everyone develops mono when they get infected. Most of the people who do get the illness are between the ages of 15 and 25; children usually don't have symptoms of mono when they are infected with EBV. A case of mono can keep you out of commission for weeks.
How is Mono spread?
One common way to "catch" mono is by kissing someone who has been infected, which is how the illness got its nickname. You can also get mononucleosis through other types of direct contact with saliva from someone infected with the virus, such as by sharing a straw or an eating utensil. Some people who have the virus in their bodies never have any symptoms, but you may still pick up the virus from them. In fact, experts believe that EBV often spreads from people who have it but don't have mono. Someone who does have mono is most contagious while he or she has a fever.
What are the symptoms of Mono?
Symptoms usually appear 4 to 7 weeks after you have been infected with the virus. Signs that you have mono include: being tired all the time, fever, sore throat, loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes (also called glands, located in your neck, underarms and groin), headaches, sore muscles, skin rash, larger than normal liver and spleen, and abdominal pain.
People who have mono may have a different combinations of these symptoms, and some people may have symptoms so mild that they hardly notice them. Others may have no symptoms at all. Even if you have several of these symptoms DO NOT try to diagnosis yourself, always consult your family doctor. To help make a diagnosis, the doctor may want to take some blood tests to determine if mono is causing your symptoms.
How is Mono treated?
There is no cure for mono, but the good news is that even if you do nothing, the illness will go away by itself, usually in 3 to 4 weeks. Because mono is caused by a virus, antibiotics won't help unless you have secondary infection like strep throat. In fact, certain antibiotics can even cause a rash if you take them while you have mono.
Although there are no magic pills for mono, you can do some things to feel better. The best treatment is to get plenty of rest, especially during the beginning stages of the illness when your symptoms are the worst. Put yourself to bed and pass on school, sports, and that party you wanted to go to.
For the fever and the aching muscles try Tylenol or Advil or Motrin. (Steer clear of aspirin unless your doctor tells you take it - it's been linked to a serious disease in kids and teens called Reye Syndrome, which can lead to liver failure and death.) If you have a sore throat, chew gum, drink tea with honey, or suck on hard candy or Popsicles. Even if you're not hungry, try to eat a well-balanced diet and drink lots of water and juices to prevent dehydrated.
When you start feeling better, take it slowly. Although you can return to school once your fever disappears, you may still feel tired. Your body will tell you when it's time to rest - listen to it. By taking good care of yourself and resting as much as you need to, you will soon be back to normal, usually within a few weeks.
How can Mono be prevented?
Wash your hands often, cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, and keep your drinks and eating utensils to yourself. Also, do not use other people's eating utensils or drink from their cups.
How serious is Mono?
Over 95% of people infected with Mononucleosis recover normally in 2 to 4 weeks. Although complications are uncommon, they may be life-threatening. Seek additional medical attention if you experience any of the following while recovering from Mono: difficulty breathing, severe sore throat, abdominal pain, or severe headaches).
Where can you get more information?
Your family doctor, school Health Office and the local health department are excellent sources for information on all communicable diseases.
Parents of students with a communicable or contagious disease are asked to telephone the school health office so that other students that have been exposed may be alerted. Students with diseases are not allowed to come to school while they are contagious.