Fitness Facts: Protecting yourself from ‘mono’
By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
Infectious mononucleosis, also called “mono,” is a contagious disease. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the most common cause of infectious mononucleosis, but other viruses also can cause this disease.
It is common among teenagers and young adults, especially college students. At least one out of four teenagers and young adults who get infected with EBV will develop infectious mononucleosis
Typical symptoms of infectious mononucleosis usually appear four to six weeks after you have been infected (exposed) to EBV. This may make it difficult to determine who or where you got it from. Symptoms might develop slowly and might not all occur at the same time.
These symptoms include:
- extreme fatigue
- sore throat
- head and body aches
- swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits
- swollen liver or spleen or both
Enlarged spleen and a swollen liver are less common symptoms. For some people, their liver or spleen or both may remain enlarged even after their fatigue ends.
How long will it last?
Most people get better in two to four weeks; however, some people may feel fatigued for several more weeks. Occasionally, the symptoms of infectious mononucleosis can last for six months or longer.
How do I catch it?
Typically, the virus is spread most commonly through bodily fluids, namely saliva. That is why it is sometimes called the “kissing disease.” However, these viruses also can spread through blood and semen during sexual contact, blood transfusions and organ transplantations.
What can I do to protect myself?
There is no vaccine to protect against infectious mononucleosis. You can help protect yourself by not kissing or sharing drinks, food or personal items, such as toothbrushes, with people who have infectious mononucleosis.
You can help relieve symptoms of infectious mononucleosis by …
- drinking fluids to stay hydrated
- getting plenty of rest
- taking over-the-counter medications for pain and fever
If you have infectious mononucleosis, you should not take penicillin antibiotics such as ampicillin or amoxicillin. Based on the severity of the symptoms, a health care provider may recommend treatment of specific organ systems affected by infectious mononucleosis.
Because your spleen may become enlarged as a result of infectious mononucleosis, you should avoid contact sports until you fully recover. Participating in contact sports can be strenuous and may cause the spleen to rupture.
How do I know if I have it?
Health care providers typically diagnose infectious mononucleosis based on symptoms.
Laboratory tests are not usually needed to diagnose infectious mononucleosis. However, specific laboratory tests may be needed to identify the cause of illness in people who do not have a typical case of infectious mononucleosis.
The blood work of patients who have infectious mononucleosis because of EBV infection may show …
- more white blood cells (lymphocytes) than normal
- unusual looking white blood cells (atypical lymphocytes)
- fewer than normal neutrophils or platelets
- abnormal liver function
If you believe you have symptoms like those described above, seek medical attention by a health care provider or feel free to schedule an appointment at the Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic (phone: 602-639-6215).