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Mono, the more common form of reference to the disease infectious mononucleosis is also referred to as the ‘kissing disease’ or as glandular fever.  Although not as contagious as other diseases, infectious mononucleosis has gained its notoriety from the fact that it can be spread through saliva.  This, of course, does not limit the potential means of infection to kissing, but instead also includes any number of other different ways in which saliva can be exchanged.  These may or may not include sneezing, coughing, the sharing of water bottles, glasses, cups, mugs, really anything that the mouth comes into contact with, such as utensils like knives, forks and spoons or through the sharing of food.

The purpose of this article is not to provide a completely comprehensive medical look at mono, but is rather meant to be a good starting place for those who are interested in learning more about this common disease.  It will include a brief introduction to infectious mononucleosis, with such topics as a look at the symptoms of mononucleosis and the steps that you may wish to take if you do in fact believe that you may have infectious mononucleosis.  As always, should you require immediate treatment or wish to make medical decisions that may affect you or someone you know, it is important that you become informed.  Becoming informed about any medical condition should always include the consultation of a certified and licensed medical or health care professional such as your family physician.

Although not the most serious of disease, infectious mononucleosis is cause by a virus known as the Epstein-Barr virus and once you have been infected by it often remains inside the body for the rest of the life of the infected individuals.  Infectious mononucleosis is what occurs after having been infected by the Epstein-Barr virus, but before effective antibodies have been developed by the body in order to keep the virus under control.

Symptoms of Mononucleosis

The symptoms of mononucleosis can be quite difficult to determine at times because the symptoms, particularly when present in children can be quite minor.  In addition, this disease most often infects children or adolescents and, according to the Mayo Clinic, is quite prevalent in developing nations.  In these nations the symptoms can be even more difficult to determine as it is so common and as a result of it being so common is more likely to effect the very young than adolescents in whom the symptoms of infectious mononucleosis would be more pronounced.

Generally, the symptoms and signs of infectious mononucleosis can be very similar to a large number of other diseases and disorder.  The most well known of the symptoms of infectious mononucleosis are the characteristic lethargy, a weakness and tiredness that is accompanied by many of the classic signs of viral infection.  This includes a sore through, even as serious as strep throat, but due to the viral nature of the disease is unaffected by antibiotics.  Other symptoms may include a rash, headache, swollen lymph nodes and tonsils, a loss of appetite and even sweating during the night that might be a result of the often accompanying fever.  These symptoms generally mimic common infections of the respiratory tract although for adults who contract infectious mononucleosis, the symptoms may be more severe and long lasting, making the signs of infectious mononucleosis more pronounced.  These symptoms may last a relatively significant amount of time and typically those waiting for the Epstein-Barr virus to incubate will need to wait as much as six weeks on average, although this can last for even a few weeks past that.  As with the signs and symptoms the duration of infectious mononucleosis is more severe in adults who have contracted this disease than in children who have the exact same virus.

It should be noted that there is no definitive means of determining if an individual has the Epstein-Barr virus exclusively through a physical exam.  The only way of determining if an individual most definitely has infectious mononucleosis or has had it in the past is to perform a blood test that will check the blood both for an elevated number of white blood cells circulating in the body, but more definitively for the presence of the Epstein-Barr virus in the bloodstream.


Because infectious mononucleosis is a viral infection, it is important to note that after seeing a doctor any prescriptions given to treat infectious mononucleosis are in fact being prescribed to treat the symptoms of the disease or potentially, in the case of having been prescribed antibiotics, to treat opportunistic infections that stem perhaps from a rash caused by the disease.  There is no way to effectively prevent infectious mononucleosis as it is so easily spread from individual to individual.  In addition, this is a disease for which there is no effective vaccine available on the market.

Most of the treatment options are self-care means of treating the symptoms during the incubation period of the virus.  This includes the need to drink as much water and fruit juice as necessary in order avoid becoming dehydrate while you have the disease and as a means of helping to mediate the discomfort cause by the accompanying sore throat and potentially fever.  In addition, OTC or ‘over the counter’ pain medications, or analgesics such as Tylenol or Advil, also known by the generic names acetaminophen and ibuprofen are potentially available to treat some of the symptoms such as headache.  Finally, it is also important to generally not maintain a strenuous schedule while dealing with the effects of an Epstein-Barr infection and to do simple things like gargling with salt water in order to prevent or to prevent the worsening of a concomitant throat infection that often occurs.  Generally it is also good to get as much rest as possible until the symptoms of infectious mononucleosis subside.

Finally, be sure to follow the instructions of your doctor when deciding how best to recover from infectious mononucleosis.  This includes getting as much arrest and following all of the instructions that the physician chooses to give to the patient.  In addition, be sure if prescribed any medications that the prescription instructions are followed to the letter as non-compliance with a medication regime can cause the symptoms to be inefficiently treated.