While Mononucleosis, better known as mono, has been dubbed the “kissing disease,” it can safely be said that mono isn’t a condition that anyone would fall in love with. A cousin of the herpes virus, mono usually spreads from one person to another through saliva exchanged in kisses (hence its somewhat-funny nickname). The virus can also be spread through sharing food or utensils with an infected person.
Though it carries relatively strong symptoms, mono is not as contagious as similar ailments, such as the common cold. Furthermore, most adults develop antibodies to the disease after being exposed to mono. In other words, your body’s immune system makes it very difficult to catch mono more than once.
Mono can be a sneaky condition, as it can wait between 4 and 8 weeks before affecting a patient’s health. A person with mono will generally exhibit the following symptoms to varying degrees:
- An enlarged spleen, which causes soreness in the upper-left abdomen
- A severe sore throat that seems to be resistant to antibiotics
- A yellowish tint to the skin, similar to jaundice
- Difficulty breathing
- Extreme weakness and fatigue
- Intense headaches
- Intense muscle aches
- Lack of appetite, usually followed by weight loss
- Moderate to high fever, followed by chills
- Night sweats
- Rash anywhere on the skin or body
- Swollen lymph nodes, glands and tonsillitis
- Tiny red spots or bruise-like areas inside the mouth, especially on the roof of the mouth
Though the above list of symptoms may seem imposing, mono is usually not severe, and will be taken care of by the body’s immune system in less than 10 days. In more serious cases, mono may stick around longer, and cause much more troubling symptoms. If you display any of these symptoms while sick with mono, you should consult your doctor about further treatment options:
- Persistent symptoms that last longer than 10 days; your doctor might determine you have strep throat. You might also have leukemia or lymphoma, but the chances of developing these conditions is significantly smaller.
- Swollen lymph nodes all over the body, which could be a sign of a much more serious condition, such as tuberculosis, cancer or HIV.
- Abdominal pain, which can indicate a ruptured spleen. In this case, seek medical attention immediately.
- Developing a rash and headache at the same time; this could indicate meningitis.
- Developing a rash of tiny red spots, which could also be a sign of meningitis.
Mono, like the common cold, is an illness that simply needs to run its course through your body before your immune system can expel it. Because of this, the best way to treat mono is though self-care. The most obvious steps are to get plenty of rest and to consistently drink fluids, as both will assist your immune system in ridding your body of mono. Avoid heavy lifting, contact sports or any strenuous activities, as these may cause your spleen to burst if it is inflamed. Try to keep your mouth moist at all times, as this can alleviate pain from an irritated throat. If you’re a smoker, try and kick your habit at least temporarily, since smoking will worsen your symptoms.