Mononucleosis is an extremely common viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Most people will be infected at some time in their lives. Mono can be spread through contact with saliva, including eating or drinking after an infected person, or through kissing. It generally takes 4–6 weeks for the first symptoms to appear. If you have mono, you will remain contagious for several weeks and perhaps off and on for the rest of your life.
Mono can be especially severe in college students. Typical symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph glands
- Loss of appetite
- Extremely swollen tonsils
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
You should contact the IU Health Center Medical Clinic if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Tonsil swelling that causes difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Pain in the upper right or left side of the abdomen
- Yellowing of the skin or the white part of the eye
- Chest pain
- Unusual weakness in arms or legs
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
Like we said, mono is very common. Currently, there is no vaccination against it. Avoid eating or drinking with the same utensils as the infected persons and/or kissing.
Mono can be quickly diagnosed in the IU Health Center lab through a simple blood test. Occasionally, the test can be negative early in the illness. If your symptoms continue, you may need a second test. The IU Health Center Medical Clinic will also sometimes perform a throat swab to rule out strep throat.
Avoid Strenuous Activity
Expect to avoid sports, lifting, straining, or other physical exertion for about 4 weeks. That's because mono affects the spleen. If it ruptures during physical activity, your life is in danger. You should get medical clearance before you resume your regular activities.
Mono is a virus, so it has to run its course. Acute symptoms can last 7–10 days. Here's what you can do to feel better:
- Get plenty of rest to avoid prolonging your illness or relapsing.
- Take acetominophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen for fever or pain.
- Gargle with salt water for a sore throat (use 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water).
- Eat a balanced diet (see our nutrition counselors for help with meal planning).
Fatigue generally lasts 4–6 weeks. If it lasts for more than four months, schedule an appointment at the IU Health Center Medical Clinic for follow-up care.