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Published on April 08, 2019

Making Sense of Mono: What You Need to Know About Mono Symptoms and Treatment

Mono mononucleosis

Feeling exhausted? If you said yes, you’re not alone. Our busy lives often leave us running on little sleep. But if you’re also experiencing fever, sore throat, headache or swelling, you might not just be lacking enough rest – you might be experiencing mono symptoms.

Mononucleosis (known commonly as mono) is a cold-and-flu-like infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Mono mainly spreads through saliva (which is why it is also called the “kissing disease”), but there are many ways the EBV virus can spread: through coughing or sneezing, through shared food items or eating utensils, or through contact with the body fluids of an infected person.

Not everyone who gets infected with EBV will develop mono. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 25% of people who are infected develop the illness – but those infected with EBV may become carriers and may unknowingly infect others.

Teens and young adults are at highest risk of developing mono. They are also most likely to develop the most common mono symptoms, which include:

Mono symptoms can last anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks and then will begin to resolve. No matter your age, if you have mono, it’s extremely important to take care of yourself. This illness is usually not dangerous if you allow yourself to rest and heal – yet without the right care, mono can lead to serious health complications, including:

  • Enlarged spleen, which can rupture and cause internal bleeding.
  • Inflammation of your heart, also known as myocarditis.
  • Liver inflammation, also known as hepatitis.
  • Anemia, a low blood cell count.

How do you treat mono? While there isn’t a specific medication or therapy for this illness, taking good care of yourself will help you get on the road to recovery. If you suspect you have mono, it’s important to visit your health care provider. They can test for the illness to help you choose the best treatment options. Additionally, 3 important things to do to treat mono are:

  1. Eat nutritious foods and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  2. Get plenty of rest. It’s especially important to avoid strenuous physical activity (like sports) in order to protect your spleen from rupturing.
  3. Use supportive strategies to treat your symptoms. Ease fever, congestion and sore throat with over-the-counter medications. You can also gargle with salt water to relieve sore throat. Before you begin self-treatment, always consult with your health care provider.

If your symptoms do not go away after a few weeks or are severe, reach out to your health care provider for help.

About the Author

Kirsten Cox, MDKirsten Cox, MD practices Family Medicine at Cox Family Practice in Asheboro, NC