Infectious mononucleosis (mono) is often called kissing disease. The virus that causes mono (Epstein-Barr virus) is spread through saliva. it can be contracted by kissing, but it can also be exposed by sharing drinking glass or eating utensils with someone who has mononucleosis. however, mononucleosis is not as contagious as some infections, such as the common cold.
You are more likely to have mononucleosis with all the signs and symptoms if you are a teenager or young adult. young children usually have few symptoms, and the infection often goes undiagnosed.
If you have mononucleosis, it’s important to watch out for certain complications, such as an enlarged spleen. rest and enough fluids are key to recovery.
Signs and symptoms of mononucleosis may include:
- sore throat, perhaps misdiagnosed as strep throat, that does not improve after treatment with antibiotics
- swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits
- swollen tonsils
- skin rash
- soft and swollen spleen
- hepatitis. You may experience mild inflammation of the liver (hepatitis).
- jaundice. occasionally a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice) also occurs.
- anemia: a decrease in red blood cells and hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein in red blood cells
- thrombocytopenia: a low count of platelets, which are blood cells involved in clotting
- heart problems: an inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis)
- complications related to the nervous system: meningitis, encephalitis and guillain-barré syndrome
- swollen tonsils, which can block breathing
The virus has an incubation period of approximately four to six weeks, although in young children this period may be shorter. the incubation period refers to how long before symptoms appear after being exposed to the virus. signs and symptoms such as fever and sore throat usually subside within a couple of weeks. but the fatigue, enlarged lymph nodes, and swollen spleen may last a few more weeks.
when to see your doctor
If you have been experiencing the above symptoms, you may have mononucleosis.
If your symptoms don’t improve on their own in a week or two, see your doctor.
The most common cause of mononucleosis is the Epstein-Barr virus, but other viruses can also cause similar symptoms. This virus is spread through saliva and you can get it from kissing or sharing food or drinks.
Although the symptoms of mononucleosis are uncomfortable, the infection resolves on its own with no long-term effects. Most adults have been exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus and have developed antibodies. this means they are immune and will not get mononucleosis.
Complications of mononucleosis can sometimes be serious.
Mono can cause an enlarged spleen. In extreme cases, the spleen can rupture, causing sudden sharp pain in the left side of the upper abdomen. if such pain occurs, seek medical attention immediately; you may need surgery.
problems with your liver may also occur:
less common complications
mononucleosis can also lead to less common complications, including:
epstein-barr virus can cause much more severe illness in people who have weakened immune systems. People with weakened immune systems may include people with HIV/AIDS or people taking medications to suppress immunity after an organ transplant.
Mono is spread through saliva. If you are infected, you can help prevent transmission of the virus to others by not kissing them and not sharing food, dishes, glasses, and utensils until several days after your fever has improved, and even longer, if possible. and remember to wash your hands regularly to prevent the spread of the virus.
epstein-barr virus can persist in saliva for months after infection. There is no vaccine to prevent mononucleosis.