Mononucleosis and Exercise

Consider light stretching when coming back from mononucleosis.
Image Credit: Mireya Acierto/DigitalVision/GettyImages

If you've got mono, you might wonder about your daily activities — including working out with mono. Mononucleosis, or mono, is a contagious disease caused by a virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this condition is most commonly caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.

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Mono can occur in children, but is much more common among teenagers and young adults. In fact, the CDC reports that it will affect one out of every four people in this age group. If you have suspected symptoms, see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis before working out with mono.

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Read more: Cardio Exercise You Can Do When You're Sick

Recognizing the Symptoms

Mono can occur in children and might even go undiagnosed, as symptoms are usually mild in this age group, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, adolescents and young adults are impacted more significantly.

The virus causing mono has a long incubation period with symptoms typically developing four to six weeks after you've been exposed. Signs and symptoms of this condition can mimic other conditions, such as strep throat — another important reason to see your doctor for a diagnosis. Symptoms include:

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  • fatigue
  • fever
  • swollen lymph nodes and tonsils
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • skin rash

Mono can also cause your spleen and liver to become enlarged, although this is a less common occurrence. Your doctor will be able to determine this with a physical exam.

Mono is highly contagious and typically spread through bodily fluids such as saliva. Symptoms usually start to resolve within two to four weeks, but fatigue can last much longer than that. Symptoms can even last six months or more, according to the CDC.

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Treatment includes lots of rest, staying hydrated and taking pain-relieving medications as needed, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. The best way to avoid spreading the disease is to wash your hands after sneezing or coughing and to avoid sharing eating utensils, drinks or toothbrushes with other people.

Read more: Is It OK to Work Out When You're Sick? Here's How to Tell

Working Out With Mono

If you've got mono, there's a good chance you won't feel like exercising. Fatigue can make it difficult just to perform basic daily tasks. However, as you begin to recover, you might be anxious to get back to your routine.

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Begin with low-impact activities such as walking, or focus on activities that don't require high levels of energy, such as stretching. Stay away from the gym to avoid spreading your germs to other people until you're fully recovered.

There are dangers of exercising with mono — particularly if you have a swollen spleen. Contact sports and physical activities of any kind must be avoided under these circumstances until your swelling has resolved. The spleen can rupture, causing severe, sharp pain on the left side of your upper abdomen, according to Mayo Clinic. You might also be confused, have blurred vision, feel lightheaded or even pass out.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience these potentially life-threatening symptoms. Surgery might be required.

Your organs can remain swollen for several weeks after other symptoms of mono have resolved. As you continue to improve as the virus passes through your body, the risks of exercising with mono lessen. But check with your health care provider to be sure you're ready for a full return to your exercise routine.

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Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker.
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