Font Size

Mononucleosis (Mono)

What Is Mononucleosis?

Patient Comments
  • Infectious mononucleosis (often called "mono") is a common viral infection that causes: 
  • Mononucleosis is most commonly caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and it is most frequently diagnosed in teenagers and young adults.
  • Mononucleosis generally resolves without medical help, though it may last from weeks to months.
  • Treatment is aimed at easing the symptoms of the illness, and it can usually be done at home with plenty of rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications.
  • Serious complications only rarely occur.

What Causes Mononucleosis?

The Epstein-Barr virus causes mononucleosis in the majority of cases. This ubiquitous, highly contagious organism is a member of the Herpesviridae family of viruses (other viruses in this family include herpes simplex, varicella-zoster, cytomegalovirus, and human herpes virus 6 & 7). Cytomegalovirus (CMV) can sometimes also cause an illness with the symptoms of mononucleosis.

  • Mononucleosis most often occurs in people between 5-25 years of age, with the highest occurrence rate between 15-25 years of age.
  • A small percentage of college students contract mononucleosis each year.
  • In developed countries, it most often occurs in those of higher socioeconomic status.
  • By adulthood, most people have already been infected with EBV.
  • Not all individuals exposed to EBV, however, develop the symptoms of mononucleosis.
  • Once infected, a person develops lifelong immunity to future infections from the disease.
  • EBV has been associated with the development of certain cancers, such as nasopharyngeal carcinoma and Burkitt's lymphoma.
  • EBV is transmitted through exposure to body fluids containing the virus.
  • It is most often transmitted via saliva (hence the name "kissing disease").
  • It can also be spread through blood and genital secretions.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2016

Must Read Articles Related to Mononucleosis

Sore Throat
Sore Throat Sore throats are generally named for the anatomical site affected, such as:
Swollen Lymph Nodes
Swollen Lymph Glands Lymph nodes (part of the lymphatic system) may signal infection if they are swollen. Types of conditions that involve swollen lymph nodes include infection, vir...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Mononucleosis:

Mononucleosis - Treatment

What treatment was effective for your mononucleosis?

Mononucleosis (mono) - Symptoms

For infectious mononucleosis (mono), what were the symptoms and signs you experienced?

Mononucleosis - Experience

What is your biggest challenge with living with mono?

Kissing disease (Mono)

Mononucleosis (Mono)


Usually no treatment for mono is needed other than:

  • Getting plenty of rest.
  • Gargling with salt water or using throat lozenges to soothe your sore throat.
  • Taking acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil) to reduce fever and relieve a sore throat and headaches. Do not give aspirin to anyone under the age of 20, because its use has been linked with Reye syndrome.
  • Avoiding contact sports and heavy lifting to reduce the risk of injuring your spleen.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Infectious Mononucleosis »

Infectious mononucleosis was first described by Sprunt and Evans in the Bulletin of the Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1920.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary