Fast Facts about “MONO”


by Barbara Jo Rayo, MD

Mononucleosis, which is often called “mono” or “kissing disease,” is an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It is very common and affects more than 3 million people in the US per year. It mostly occurs in people ages 14-18 but can occur at any age. It is spread by saliva…kissing, sharing a glass or food utensil with someone infected with mono or even through a sneeze or cough.

The symptoms of mono are swollen glands in your neck, tiredness, fever, swollen tonsils, sore throat, a swollen spleen and sometimes a rash. Teenagers and young adults often show these signs and symptoms but young children usually have few symptoms.

Mono usually isn’t very serious. The fever and sore throat usually will lessen within a couple of weeks but, fatigue, enlarged lymph nodes and swollen spleen can last several weeks longer.

There are blood tests to diagnosis mono. Our office can perform a monospot test. It’s great if it is positive and we can say “yes, you have mono!”. If it is negative, we still don’t know if you have it or not. That’s when your doctor may order EBV titers. This requires going to an outside lab to have blood drawn. This is the definitive test for mono.

THERE IS NO TREATMENT FOR MONO. Antibiotics won’t work because this is a virus. So… rest, drink lots of fluids and eat good, healthy foods. An over the counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be taken for comfort. DON’T TAKE ASPIRIN. It has been linked to a life threatening condition called Reye’s Syndrome when you have a viral infection.

When should your child be seen in the office? We’d like to see your child anytime there has been a fever for longer than 2-3 days. If there are symptoms of a bad sore throat, we can look for mono or strep throat. It is wise to be seen anytime your child is ill with these symptoms and it seems more than the common cold. If your child has been diagnosed with mono and the symptoms are worsening, ie unable to eat or drink; problems sleeping due to swollen tonsils causing breathing issues; developing yellowness of the skin or the whites of the eyes; development of a very sharp pain in the left upper part of the abdomen….please have your child seen in the office right away.

What about school and activities? It’s recommended that your child stay home until feeling better. Most people feel better in 2-4 weeks. Some kids can only go to school for half days until the fatigue improves. Athletes should not return to contact sports for three weeks, until they have been examined and shown that their spleen is still not enlarged.

BOTTOM LINE…Mono is VERY common and usually resolves without any problems within 2 to 4 weeks.