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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 11/21/2017

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Mononucleosis:

Mononucleosis - Treatment

What treatment was effective for your mononucleosis?

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

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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