Mononucleosis: What’s the reality?

Mononucleosis (mono) is a contagious infection caused by the herpes virus Epstein-Barr. Other viruses may also cause Mononucleosis. Infection is common among adolescents and young adults. People with Mononucleosis experience extreme tiredness, fever, and body aches. Treatments can help treat until the illness itself goes away.

What Is Mononucleosis?

Mononucleosis is an infectious disease normally caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It’s sometimes called Mononucleosis or “Kissing Disease.” You can get the virus from kissing as well as things like sharing drinks or silverware. It’s infectious. But you’re less likely to have Mononucleosis than a common cold.

Mononucleosis is not usually a severe illness, although you might have problems that make it more harmful. The symptoms of Mononucleosis can vary a lot. One can have symptoms ranging from mild to severe. You will not be able to take part in everyday activities for a few weeks.

How common is Mononucleosis (Monon)?

The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) that causes Mononucleosis is very common. About 90% of Americans became infected with it by the age of 35. Not all with the virus develop Mononucleosis symptoms—some persons only carry the virus.

Mononucleosis Symptoms

Mononucleosis can cause adverse symptoms in different people. If you get EBV, you may start to experience Mononucleosis symptoms within around 4 to 7 weeks. 

Common signs shall include:

  • Fatigue
  • A sore throat may be misdiagnosed as a strep throat that does not get better after antibiotic treatment
  • Fever
  • The swollen lymph nodes of the neck and armpits
  • Tonsils swollen
  • Headache
  • Skin rash
  • Soft, swollen spleen

The incubation period of this virus is approximately four to six weeks. But this period can be shorter in young children. Signs and symptoms such as fever and sore throat usually decline within a few weeks, but weakness, enlarged lymph nodes, and swollen spleen can last a few weeks longer.

Mononucleosis causes 

EBV usually causes Mononucleosis. The virus is spread by close contact with saliva from the mouth of an infected person or other body fluids, such as blood. It is also spread by sexual intercourse and organ transplantation.

You may be exposed to the virus by coughing or sneezing, kissing, or sharing food or drink with someone who has Mononucleosis. It usually takes 4 to 8 weeks for signs to develop after you have been infected.

In adolescents and adults, there are sometimes no noticeable signs of infection. In children, the virus usually causes no signs, and the infection sometimes goes unrecognized.

Is Mononucleosis infectious?

Mononucleosis is infectious, but scientists are not sure how long this period will last.

Because EBV is shedding in your throat, you may infect someone who comes into contact with your saliva, such as kissing them or sharing food. You could not even be aware that you have Mononucleosis because of the long incubation period.

Mononucleosis may continue to be infectious for 3 months or longer after you experience symptoms.  


Mononucleosis symptoms may also be serious.

1. Enlargement of the spleen:

Mononucleosis can cause spleen enlargement. In extreme cases, your spleen can rupture, causing sharp, sudden pain on the left side of your upper abdomen. If such pain happens, seek medical attention right away—you may require surgery.

2. Liver issues

There may also be problems with your liver:

  • Hepatitis. You can experience mild inflammation of the liver (hepatitis).
  • Jaundice. Yellowing of your skin and whites of your eyes (jaundice) also happens occasionally.

3. Less common complications

Mononucleosis may also result in the following less common complications:

  • Anemia: A decrease in red blood cells and hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein in red blood cells.
  • Thrombocytopenia: The low amount of platelets that are blood cells involved in clotting.
  • Heart issues: Inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis)
  • Nervous system complications: Meningitis, encephalitis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Swollen tonsils. which can stop breathing
  • Epstein: Barr virus can cause much more severe illness in people with weakened immune systems, such as people with HIV/AIDS or people taking drugs to suppress immunity after organ transplantation.


1. Physical exam: 

Your doctor suspects Mononucleosis based on your signs and symptoms, how long they have lasted, and a physical examination. He or she will look for signs such as swollen lymph nodes, tonsils, liver, or spleen, and consider how those signs relate to the problems you describe.

2. Blood tests: 

  1. Antibody tests. If additional confirmation is required, a Mononucleosisspot test may be done to check for antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus in your blood. This screening test gives results within one day. But the infection may not be detected during the first week of illness. A different antibody test requires a longer duration, but it can identify the disease even in the first week of symptoms.
  2. White blood cell count. Your doctor may use other blood tests to check for an increased number of white blood cells (lymphocytes) or abnormally shaped lymphocytes. These blood tests may not confirm Mononucleosis but may suggest that it is possible to have so.


There are no specific therapy ways to prevent infectious Mononucleosis. Antibiotics do not work against viral infections such as Mononucleosis. Treatment involves taking care of yourself, such as: 

  • Getting enough rest
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • And drinking plenty of water

You may take over-the-counter pain relievers for the treatment of fever or sore throat.


  • Treatment of secondary infections. Occasionally, streptococcal (strep) infection is associated with the sore throat of Mononucleosis. You also may develop a sinus infection or an infection with your tonsils (tonsillitis). If so, antibiotics may be needed to treat these accompanying bacterial infections.
  • Risk of rash with some drugs. Amoxicillin and other penicillin derivatives are not recommended for individuals with Mononucleosis. Some people with Mononucleosis who are taking one of these drugs may develop a rash. However, the rash does not necessarily mean that they are allergic to antibiotics.


Mononucleosis is spread using saliva. If you are infected, you can help prevent the spread of the virus to others by not kissing them and not sharing food, dishes, glasses, and utensils until a few days after your fever has subsided—and even longer, if possible.

Epstein-Barr may persist in your saliva for months after infection. There is no vaccine available to prevent Mononucleosis.

The Bottom line

Most forms of Mononucleosis (Mono) do not cause serious complications. However, symptoms such as extreme fatigue, sore throat, and body aches can interrupt education, work, and life. Your healthcare provider can make suggestions for relief. Rest and over-the-counter drugs are also the safest way to ease symptoms. It is therefore important to avoid strenuous physical activity that can damage the enlarged spleen.

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