Mononucleosis, also known as mono or “the kissing disease”, is a common condition that has affected nearly 95 percent of adults by the time they turn 40 years old. Amra Nasir, MD, medical director for Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care, answers your frequently asked questions about mono.
Q: What is mononucleosis?
Dr. Nasir: Mono is a common virus spread through direct contact with body fluids through kissing, sexual contact and sharing personal items. This condition affects your white blood cells and is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Mono’s lifespan is generally longer than other viruses and stays dormant in a person’s body throughout their entire life after they’ve been infected. Most people catch mono as teenagers and young adults.
Q: What are the symptoms of mono?
Dr. Nasir: Mono generally starts slowly with symptoms like fatigue, headaches and a sore throat. Eventually, you may develop a fever and swelling in your lymph glands and spleen. Symptoms usually start one to two months after exposure to the virus and can persist for several weeks. Infants and young children tend to have mild symptoms of the virus, while teens and young adults experience stronger symptoms.
Q: How is mono diagnosed?
Dr. Nasir: Your doctor can often make a mono diagnosis based on your symptoms alone. For a more accurate diagnosis, your doctor may give you a blood test. Mono can be diagnosed if your doctor notices changes in your white blood cells, liver function or a decrease in your platelet count.
Q: What is the best way to treat mono?
Dr. Nasir: Rest is the most effective way to treat mono. As you recover, you can relieve any discomfort by taking pain relievers, gargling with salt water, drinking fluids and getting plenty of rest. In the meantime, limit close contact with others and do not share your personal items with others until your symptoms disappear.
Sources: U.S. National Library of Medicine, Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control, Mayo Clinic