It’s often called the kissing disease, but there’s nothing romantic about mononucleosis, more commonly known as mono.
Mono is a contagious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.
Although it can make you feel pretty miserable, mono usually isn’t serious. Here’s what you should know about the so-called kissing disease.
1. It starts with flu-like symptoms.
Mono starts with sore throat, fever, fatigue and achiness. You may think it’s the flu or a bad cold, but symptoms lasting longer than a week warrant an appointment, said Dr. Kristin Cutlan, a Marshfield Clinic Health System pediatrician.
Swollen lymph nodes and tonsils are common symptoms. Ibuprofen usually helps reduce swelling, but a steroid medication may be needed to reduce extreme swelling that makes it hard to breathe or swallow.
Mono sometimes causes the spleen to swell and rarely, to rupture.
2. Mono usually affects teens.
People of any age can get mono, but it’s most common in teens and young adults. Most adults are immune to the virus and very young children often aren’t diagnosed because they get mild symptoms.
3. Rest is best.
People who have mono need plenty of rest. That means staying home from school if you’re feeling very fatigued and avoiding contact sports.
“I recommend no contact sports for eight weeks after a child has been diagnosed with mono to decrease the chance that impact to the belly will cause the spleen to rupture,” Cutlan said.
She recommends watching for worsening symptoms that require immediate medical attention, including:
- Severe sore throat that makes it hard to breathe or drink water
- Significant belly pain
4. Symptoms last a few weeks.
Symptoms usually go away after a few weeks with rest and self-care. Fatigue may last up to several months.
There is no medication to cure mono.
Cough drops and over-the-counter pain relievers help ease mild symptoms. In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce swelling in the throat or spleen.
5. It’s not just caused by kissing.
Smooching isn’t the only way to get mono.
“The virus is spread through saliva, so you also can get sick from sharing drinking glasses and straws,” Cutlan said.
It’s important not to share these things because you may be infected and spread mono without knowing it. You can continue spreading the virus for six months after getting sick.