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Infectious Mononucleosis in Teens and Young Adults

Infectious Mononucleosis in Teens and Young Adults

What is infectious mononucleosis?

Infectious mononucleosis is a contagious disease. It is common in teens and young adults. It is also called mononucleosis, "mono," glandular fever, or  the "kissing disease." 

What causes infectious mono?

Mono  is typically caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The cytomegalovirus (CMV) also causes a similar illness. Both viruses are members of the herpes simplex virus family. Consider the following statistics:

  • Most children who have the virus do not have any noticeable symptoms.

  • The cytomegalovirus is a group of viruses in the herpes simplex virus family. Most healthy people who get the CMV virus have few, if any, symptoms and have no long-term health effects. Some people may develop symptoms of mononucleosis. 

  • The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may cause mono in teens and young adults. However, even after the symptoms of have disappeared, the EBV stays in a person's cells forever. The virus can become active again, but it usually doesn't cause symptoms. The same is true for CMV.

What are the symptoms of infectious mono?

Mono usually lasts a few weeks, but may continue for many months. Fatigue and trouble concentrating may last for months longer. EBV is not, however, a cause of chronic fatigue syndrome. These are the most common symptoms of mono:

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Swollen lymph glands in the neck, armpits, and groin

  • Long periods of tiredness and muscle aches

  • Sore throat due to tonsillitis, which often makes swallowing difficult

  • Enlarged spleen

  • Liver problems such as mild liver damage that can cause temporary yellowing (jaundice) of the skin and eyes

Once a person gets mono, the virus says inactive in the body for the rest of his or her life. Once a person gets the Epstein-Barr virus, he or she is not likely to get mono again, unless it is from CMV.

How is mono diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will do a complete medical history and physical exam. His or her symptoms may be enough to diagnose mono. The diagnosis may be confirmed with blood tests, including:

  • White blood cell count

  • Antibody test

  • Liver function tests

How is mono spread?

Mono is most often spread by contact with infected saliva (spit). However, it can also be spread through blood or other bodily fluids. According to the CDC, symptoms can take between 4 to 6 weeks to appear and usually do not last beyond 4 months. It's hard to keep it from spreading because even symptom-free people can carry the virus in their saliva.

What is the treatment for mono?

You may ease symptoms with the following:

  • Get plenty of rest and drink fluids to stay hydrated.

  • Take over-the-counter medicine for fever and discomfort.

  • Take a brief course of corticosteroids. These drugs help reduce certain complications such as swelling of the throat and tonsils.

  • Avoid contact sports until fully recovered due to the possibility of an enlarged spleen that can rupture.

Reviewed Date: 11-01-2016

Infectious Mononucleosis in Teens and Young Adults

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.