Mononucleosis is a viral disease characterized by fever, sore throat, swollen lymph glands, and fatigue.
Mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Found mainly in saliva and mucus, EBV is passed from person to person by intimate behavior, such as kissing.
Many people get EBV during their lifetime. Factors that increase the likelihood that EBV will develop into mononucleosis include:
One episode of mononucleosis usually produces permanent immunity.
Signs of mononucleosis usually begin 4-7 weeks after you were exposed to the virus. The initial symptoms may be a sense of general weakness that lasts about one week. This is followed by symptoms that may include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is based on:
There is no treatment to cure mononucleosis or to shorten the length of the illness. It usually runs its course in 4-6 weeks, although the fatigue may last longer.
During the first few weeks after diagnosis, patients should avoid contact sports. Inflammation of the spleen from mononucleosis puts individuals at high risk of splenic rupture. This can require surgery. In rare cases, it can be fatal.
Symptoms can be eased by:
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children or teens with a current or recent viral infection. This is because of the risk of Reye syndrome. Ask your doctor which other medicines are safe for your child.
Steroids are sometimes used if the swelling in the throat is interfering with breathing. They can also be used if a complication involving low platelet counts or anemia occurs.
Follow these comfort measures:
If you are diagnosed with mononucleosis, follow your doctor's instructions .
Most people contract the EBV virus sometime during their lives. Prevention is geared toward decreasing the likelihood that EBV will develop into mononucleosis. Follow these guidelines to decrease your risk:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
About Kids Health
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Balfour HH Jr, Hokanson KM, et al. A virologic pilot study of valacyclovir in infectious mononucleosis. J Clin Virol. 2007;39:16-21.
Infectious mononucleosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 28, 2013. Accessed June 7, 2013.
Luzuriaga K, Sullivan JL. Infectious mononucleosis. N Engl J Med. 2010 May 27;362(21):1993-2000.
Mononucleosis. Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/mononucleosis.html. Updated November 2010. Accessed June 7, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Kari Kassir, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.