What is infectious mononucleosis?Infectious mononucleosis, also known as mononucleosis, "mono," or glandular fever, is characterized by swollen lymph glands and fatigue.
What causes infectious mononucleosis?Infectious mononucleosis is either caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or the cytomegalovirus, both of whom are members of the herpesvirus group. Consider the following statistics:
- Most adults in the US have been exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus, which is a very common virus. When children are infected with the virus, they usually do not experience any noticeable symptoms. However, uninfected adolescents and young adults who come in contact with the virus may develop infectious mononucleosis in nearly 50 percent of exposures.
- Cytomegalovirus is a member of the herpesvirus group. Most healthy persons who become infected with the CMV virus after birth have few, if any, symptoms and have no long-term effects on their health.
The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may cause infectious mononucleosis in adolescents and young adults. However, even after the symptoms of infectious mononucleosis have disappeared, the EBV will remain dormant in the throat and blood cells during that person's lifetime. The virus can reactivate periodically, however, usually without symptoms.
What are the symptoms of infectious mononucleosis?Mononucleosis usually lasts for one to two months. The following are the most common symptoms of mononucleosis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- swollen lymph glands in the neck, armpits, and groin
- constant fatigue
- sore throat due to tonsillitis, which often makes swallowing difficult
- enlarged spleen
- liver involvement, such as mild liver damage that can cause temporary jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes)
The symptoms of mononucleosis may resemble other medical conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
How is infectious mononucleosis diagnosed?In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination of your child, a diagnosis of mononucleosis is usually based on reported symptoms. However, diagnosis can be confirmed with specific blood tests and other laboratory tests, including:
- white blood cell count
- antibody test
How is infectious mononucleosis spread?Mononucleosis is often spread through contact with infected saliva from the mouth. Symptoms can take between four to six weeks to appear and usually do not last beyond four months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Transmission is impossible to prevent, according to the CDC, because even symptom-free people can carry the virus in their saliva.
Treatment for infectious mononucleosis:Alleviating symptoms of mononucleosis may include the following:
- Corticosteroids (generally used only for severe inflammation of the tonsils)
- Avoid contact sports until your doctor can no longer feel the spleen.
The information on this Web page is provided for educational purposes. You understand and agree that this information is not intended to be, and should not be used as, a substitute for medical treatment by a health care professional. You agree that Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital is not making a diagnosis of your condition or a recommendation about the course of treatment for your particular circumstances through the use of this Web page. You agree to be solely responsible for your use of this Web page and the information contained on this page. Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital, its officers, directors, employees, agents, and information providers shall not be liable for any damages you may suffer or cause through your use of this page even if advised of the possibility of such damages.