What Happens If You Get Mono?

Reviewed on 10/5/2021

What Is Mono?

Symptoms of “mono” (infectious mononucleosis) may include extreme fatigue, fever, sore throat, headache, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, rash, swollen liver and/or spleen, and mild liver damage. Mono symptoms tend to appear four to eight weeks after infection.
Symptoms of “mono” (infectious mononucleosis) may include extreme fatigue, fever, sore throat, headache, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, rash, swollen liver and/or spleen, and mild liver damage. Mono symptoms tend to appear four to eight weeks after infection.

Mono” (infectious mononucleosis) is a contagious infection that can cause fever, sore throat, fatigue, and enlarged lymph nodes in the neck. Mono is also called “the kissing disease” because it tends to occur in adolescents and young adults and can be spread through saliva.

What Are Mono Symptoms?

Symptoms of mono may happen slowly, which usually appear four to eight weeks after infection. These symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue (this symptom may last for more than a month)
  • Fever (temperature greater than 100.4°F or 38°C)
  • Sore throat
  • Headache 
  • Body aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, and groin
  • Rash
  • Swollen liver and/or spleen (this symptom is not common)
  • Mild liver damage that can cause temporary yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice)

For the most part, mononucleosis is not considered a serious illness and people usually recover completely within one to four weeks without any complications. Some people may continue to feel fatigue for several more weeks. Rarely, symptoms of mono last six months or more. 

Once symptoms of mono go away, the virus that caused it (Epstein-Barr) remains dormant in the body for the rest of a person’s life. It may become active, and though the infected person will not have any symptoms, the virus can spread to others during that time. 

Complications of mono are uncommon and may include: 

  • Ruptured spleen (severe pain in the upper left part of the abdomen; this is a medical emergency)
  • Kidney inflammation
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis)
  • Nervous system problems, including encephalitis and meningitis
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Upper airway obstruction

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Is Mono Contagious?

Mono (infectious mononucleosis) is most commonly caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

  • The virus is usually spread through bodily fluids, especially saliva, through kissing (mono is often called “the kissing disease”), sharing eating utensils, or drinking from the same glass as someone infected with the virus. 
  • It can also be spread through blood and semen during sexual contact, blood transfusions, and organ transplantations.
  • People are often exposed to EBV during childhood, although they may not realize it at the time because they may not have symptoms or symptoms are mild. 
  • Most people have been infected with EBV by the time they reach adulthood. 

How Is Mono Diagnosed?

Mono can usually be diagnosed based on the patient’s symptoms and lab tests are typically not needed. 

  • A blood test called the Monospot may be used to confirm a diagnosis, however, the Monospot test often comes back with false negatives early in the illness so it’s not always reliable. 
  • Sometimes, additional blood tests may be used to identify the cause of illness in people who do not have typical cases of infectious mononucleosis.

What Is the Treatment for Mono?

Treatment for mono (infectious mononucleosis) is usually aimed at relief of symptoms. Home remedies to relieve symptoms of mono may include: 

  • Getting plenty of rest
    • Avoid contact sports until you fully recover
      • Mono may enlarge the spleen and strenuous activities may cause the spleen to rupture
  • Drinking fluids 
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications for pain and fever

There are currently no antiviral medications that can treat or cure Epstein-Barr virus.

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Reviewed on 10/5/2021
References
https://www.cdc.gov/epstein-barr/about-mono.html

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/infectious-mononucleosis-mono-in-adults-and-adolescents-beyond-the-basics?search=Infectious%20mononucleosis&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/infectious-mononucleosis