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Mononucleosis

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Overview
Mononucleosis is a respiratory virus that affects the blood cells and salivary glands (glands responsible for producing saliva). Even though anyone can get mononucleosis, most people who get the illness are between the ages of 15 and 25. Mono can keep you out of work or school for several weeks or months.

Mononucleosis, sometimes called "mono," is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, a member of the herpes family. Although this virus is one of several herpes viruses, it has nothing to do with cold sores or genital herpes, although it may trigger an outbreak if you already suffer from either strain of herpes.

Mono is classified as a herpes virus because once you've been infected, the virus stays in your body for the rest of your life. However, you probably won't get the symptoms of mono more than once.

You can get mononucleosis through direct contact with infected saliva. Anything as innocent as sharing a straw or an eating utensil can expose you to the virus.

Another common way to catch Mono is by kissing someone who's infected. This is why the illness is sometimes called the "kissing disease." Although a quick kiss between friends probably won't do any harm, intimate kissing with someone who's infected or who has recently had mononucleosis can put you at greater risk for getting the disease. The virus can lie dormant and be passed onto you or others without the infected person ever having symptoms of the virus.

Symptoms
The virus has a long incubation period and sometimes won't show symptoms until 30 to 60 days after infection. Most often symptoms appear two weeks to 60 days after you've been infected. The most common symptom is constant fatigue, a constant state of feeling tired. As another of its nicknames, 'glandular fever,' implies, the most distinguishing mono symptom is enlarged glands, or lymph nodes, in the neck, armpit and groin. Other signs include:

* Fever, sometimes up to 103 degrees Fahrenheit
* Very sore throat
* Swollen lymph glands
* Headaches
* Muscles that ache
* Enlarged or swollen liver and spleen

Common Treatments
Although there's no magic pill to make mono go away, there are some things you can do to feel better. The best recommended treatment is to get plenty of rest (especially during the beginning stages of the illness when your symptoms are the worst) and drink plenty of water and fluids.

Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the fever and aching muscles. Steer clear of aspirin unless your doctor tells you to take it.

When you start feeling better, take it slow. Although you can return to work or school once your fever disappears, you may still feel tired. Your body will tell you when it's time to rest, so listen to it. Keep things low-key and try taking afternoon naps.

Most health care providers recommend avoiding sports for at least a month after the symptoms disappear, especially if your spleen is enlarged. An enlarged spleen can rupture easily, causing severe abdominal pain and requiring emergency surgery. Avoid all contact sports or even wrestling with your friends until your health care provider gives you permission.

Prevention
Keep your drinks and eating utensils to yourself, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, and wash your hands often. If you share a phone with the rest of the household, wipe the mouthpiece with rubbing alcohol after you've used it.

Ask Your Physician
Ask your doctor if you feel constant fatigue or swollen lymph nodes or if you have had contact with the saliva of someone who has developed mono.

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