Published January 18, 2012
Mononucleosis is often referred to as the kissing disease because it is spread through saliva. You can transmit mono by kissing or sharing utensils, and for this reason it is important to abstain from these activities for a few months following your return to health. You may still be contagious after your symptoms have been alleviated. While you have the disease, these symptoms are difficult to cope with because they can be debilitating. Mono triggers swollen lymph glands, sore throat and fever. This bothersome disease is most prevalent among teenagers. By adulthood, most people have built up antibodies to protect them from contracting mono. It is often caused by the Epstein-Barr virus but can also be caused by cytomegalovirus. It is important to learn the symptoms of mono in case you ever encounter it in either a loved one or yourself.
Mono may manifest itself in a variety of ways. Some common symptoms are fatigue, sore throat, general faintness, swollen tonsils, headache, skin rash, night sweats, swollen spleen and weak appetite. Other more extreme, yet less common, symptoms that may occur are rapid heart rate, sensitivity to light, stiff neck, hives and jaundice. Mono usually incubates for four to eight weeks, but whereas fever and sore throat often subside after a couple weeks, the swollen spleen and lymph glands may persist for a few weeks longer.
Possible serious problems
If mono goes untreated, severe complications may arise. Your liver may become inflamed by the development of hepatitis. Your spleen may enlarge to the point where it erupts. This will cause sharp pain in your abdomen and could require surgery. And although rare, you may experience anemia, heart inflammation, nervous system malfunctions and a decrease in vital clotting blood cells called platelets. Even more grave complications will appear in people with diminished immune systems, such as those suffering from HIV.
Your doctor will look for swollen lymph nodes in your neck and swollen tonsils, which are often covered in a white or yellow substance. The doctor will also check to see if your spleen or liver are swollen and ask whether you have any skin rashes. Your physician will also check the number of white blood cells in your bloodstream, which are usually higher in patients with mono. Abnormal lymphocytes (unusual white blood cells) and atypical liver function are often enough to diagnose a patient with mono.
In order to alleviate your symptoms, you will need to sleep and rest often, drink plenty of water, gargle with warm salt water to pacify your sore throat and take a pain reliever (such as ibuprofen) for headaches. Also, wait until you fully recover before returning to physical activity. Your spleen may still be extraordinarily sensitive after the first few weeks of the disease. You do not want to risk posing further harm to your body.
Return to health
Usually the fever subsides in 10 days, the swollen lymph nodes and spleen heal in four weeks and fatigue ends after a few weeks. But fatigue may remain for two or three months in more extreme cases.