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Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Questions & Related Topics

Key Points

  • Mono, often referred to as the "kissing disease," is a contagious illness primarily caused by the Epstein-Barr virus and is most common among people aged 15 to 25.
  • The disease spreads through contact with saliva, mucus, and tears, and can be contracted through actions such as kissing, coughing, sneezing, sharing food or drinks, and certain medical procedures.
  • Symptoms of mono include fever, sore throat, swollen glands, fatigue, headache, and night sweats.
  • While preventing mono can be difficult, practicing good hygiene, avoiding sharing personal items, and limiting close contact can help reduce the risk.
  • Treatment for mono typically involves rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medicines for fever and pain, and while the Epstein-Barr virus remains in the body after infection, it usually doesn't cause further symptoms.

What is Mono?

If you’ve ever heard someone talking about the “kissing disease,” they were almost certainly referring to mono. Mono, or infectious mononucleosis, is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is the most common type of herpes virus. Mono is most often seen in individuals between the ages of 15 and 25, although you can get it at any age. It’s very contagious and often spreads through contact with saliva, so while, yes, you can get it from kissing, you can also get it by sharing things like drinks, toothbrushes, and eating utensils. Mono can also be spread through contact with mucus from the nose and throat, and sometimes even tears.

Possible Symptoms for Mono

1. Fever

A fever is one of the strongest symptoms of mono.[1] Usually, it isn’t an incredibly high fever that would cause serious concern — a reason people often confuse mono with a cold or another kind of respiratory or sinus infection.

2. Sore Throat

A sore throat is another telltale sign of mono. Because the disease passes through saliva, it commonly leads to a sore throat.

3. Swollen Glands

Swollen lymph glands in your armpits and neck are one of the first signs of mono; these are more specific to mono and not as likely to show up with a cold or flu virus.[1] Your tonsils and your liver or spleen could also swell, causing discomfort and tenderness in these areas. If you press on these places in your body, they will likely seem fuller than usual.

4. Fatigue

People who have mono become very tired. Their body and muscles ache and become weak, making it hard to complete everyday tasks. Because fatigue is also a sign of a cold or flu virus, it’s important to go to the doctor and find out whether you have mono, especially if you think it’s a possibility.

5. Headache

Headaches are common with mono. The body is fatigued, and doing too much while having mono can quickly bring on a headache.

6. Night Sweats

It’s common to sweat at night with a cold or the flu, especially if your fever breaks. However, sweating often and profusely at night could also be a sign of mono. It might also make sleeping difficult, worsening headaches and fatigue.

5 Top Causes of Mono

1. Kissing

Although kissing isn’t always the cause of mono, people call it the kissing disease because it spreads through bodily fluids — specifically saliva. Because kissing is one of the easiest ways to spread mono, teenagers are particularly and famously susceptible to it.[1]

2. Coughing and Sneezing

If someone who has mono coughs or sneezes on you, it’s possible for you to catch it. Usually, a person doesn’t realize they have mono until several weeks after contracting the disease simply because the symptoms don’t start to occur until this point.[1]

3. Sharing

If you share a drink or a bite of food with someone infected with mono, you’re likely to get it as well. This is another way saliva can pass from one person to another without kissing. Sharing a toothbrush is another surefire way to spread it.[3]

4. Taking Care of Patients

Medical personnel are at a particularly high risk for getting mono — not because they are likely to share saliva with patients, but simply because they could encounter the virus.

5. Medical Procedures

In some cases, mono spreads through a blood transfusion, a hematopoietic cell transplantation, or a solid organ transplant.[4] Although this is not the cause for most cases of mono, it is possible, as the infectious disease can also be transmitted through the blood.

3 Ways to Prevent Mono

1. Practice Good Hygiene

It is almost impossible to prevent mono completely.[1] Many people get it at some point in their lives, and even those who don’t experience symptoms can still become carriers of the disease. However, practicing good hygiene, like covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and washing your hands, is a good way to minimize the spread of any infection or disease.

2. Don’t Share

Don’t share food, personal items, or drinks with people you don’t know. Even someone you are friends with could possibly have the infection and not know it or could have gone through it when they were younger. It’s a good rule of thumb not to share personal items or food with anyone in order to avoid catching any kind of transmittable illness.

3. Avoid Kissing

Teenagers and college students are more likely to get mono because they often have not experienced the disease and kiss multiple people on a regular basis. It’s a good idea to avoid this behavior when you are young in order to avoid mono (and other illnesses); however, anyone can get the disease — even adults.[2]

Possible Mono Treatment Options

Typically, some time off from work or school, lots of fluids, and plenty of rest is all you need to get over mono after a few weeks, although you will still need to take it easy for a while. Did you know that even after you get over mono, you will always carry the Epstein-Barr virus that caused it? But, don’t panic. Although the virus may become active from time to time, it will not cause any symptoms. More specific treatments include:

1. Rest

Getting rest is the best treatment for mono. Because of its similarity to the flu or the common cold, it’s a good plan to take some time off work or school and get some rest.[3] This is especially important to avoid infecting others. Usually, the acute symptoms last about two to four weeks, and resting during this time is crucial for improvement.[2]

2. Drink Fluids

Another important treatment is to drink lots of fluids in order to help you stay hydrated; symptoms of dehydration could severely worsen your condition and make immediate medical care necessary.

3. Over-the-Counter Medicine

There is no vaccine for mono. Certain over-the-counter flu and cold medicines often don’t work on mono, but you can certainly take medicines for your fever and any pain you might experience.[3] These may help you get better faster.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Mono

  • Where or how do you think you contracted mono?
  • How long have you been experiencing the symptoms of the disease?
  • Is your spleen or liver swollen?
  • Are you consistently tired?
  • Do you take anything at home to treat your symptoms?

Mono May Also Be Known as

  • Infectious mononucleosis
  • Epstein-Barr
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • EBV
  • Kissing disease

Frequently asked questions

  • What is Mono and what causes it?

    Mono, also known as the "kissing disease," is a contagious illness mainly caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.
  • How does Mono spread?

    Mono spreads through contact with saliva, mucus, and tears. It can be contracted through kissing, coughing, sneezing, sharing food or drinks, and certain medical procedures.
  • What are the symptoms of Mono?

    Symptoms of Mono include fever, sore throat, swollen glands, fatigue, headache, and night sweats.
  • How can I prevent getting Mono?

    While it's challenging to completely prevent Mono, you can minimize the risk by practicing good hygiene, avoiding sharing personal items, and limiting close contact with others.
  • What is the typical treatment for Mono?

    Treatment for Mono generally involves rest, staying hydrated, and taking over-the-counter medicines for fever and pain.
  • Does the Epstein-Barr virus leave the body after Mono is treated?

    No, the Epstein-Barr virus remains in the body after infection, but it usually doesn't cause further symptoms.
  • Who is most at risk for contracting Mono?

    Individuals aged 15 to 25 are most at risk for contracting Mono.
  • Can Mono be contracted through medical procedures?

    Yes, Mono can be contracted through certain medical procedures that involve contact with saliva, mucus, or tears.

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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