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All You Need to Know about Infectious Mononucleosis

Updated on July 14, 2012

HLA B*0801 complexed Epstein Barr Virus peptide

3 weeks ago, I started feeling the symptoms of tonsillitis. Being an ideal candidate for tonsillitis as my tonsils are fissured, I went to the doctor. And sure enough, I was diagnosed with tonsilities. I took amoxicillin for one week. I started feeling better after a while but a week after I had stopped taking the antibiotics, I started feeling the same symptoms again and this time I felt weaker than before. I went to another doctor who prescribed me amoxillin once again. I went through the same as before and one week after I had stopped taking the antibiotics, I started feeling miserable again. And yet, I thought as I was working so much and feeling stressed, I had become resistant against the antibiotics. I went to a third doctor who prescribed me a different type of antibiotics. It didn't help. I was becoming really tired of being sick, so I decided to see an otorhinolaryngologist. She asked me if I had had mononucleosis as a child. As I live in Argentina, I had no idea what she was talking about as she told me the name of the disease in Spanish. I told her I don't know. I was sent to the hospital for some blood tests. And finally, I found out that I had infectious mononucleosis. I was really interested in finding out about this disease that had cost me my entire strength and now I can share this information with you.

What is mononucleosis?

Infectious mononucleosis, also known as the “kissing disease” or simply “mono”, is a viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus which is transmitted through saliva and mucus. The virus belongs to the herpes virus family. As mono is transmitted through saliva, it can spread through kissing or by coughing and sneezing through which small drops of infected saliva can be inhaled by other people. In the US, 95% of adults between 35 and 40 years old were found to have antibodies against mono. This shows that most people have been infected by the virus at some point in their lives. If children are infected by the virus, they usually don’t experience any symptoms. Adults are usually immune against the disease due to a prior infection and the building up of antibodies in their bodies. The most affected group thus consists of people between 15 and 24 years old.


What are the symptoms of mononucleosis?

Often children and teenagers are infected by it and their symptoms tend to be rather mild. Symptoms set in 4 to 6 weeks after the transmission of the virus. Mononucleosis leads to extreme fatigue and weakness, a severe sore throat, swollen glands and tonsils, fever, chills, aches, a loss of appetite, night sweats, as well as nausea resulting from a swollen spleen or liver caused by mono. You might see white patches at the back of the throat of a person infected with mono.


A swollen spleen can lead to its rupture in extreme cases which leads to a sharp, sudden pain in the left side of your abdomen. In this case, you might be requiring surgery which is why you need to consult a doctor immediately.


Mononucleosis can be diagnosed through blood tests. A monospot test might be done to detect if there are antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus in the blood. The results can be obtained in one day. A white blood cell count might also be carried out in which an increased number of white blood cells could be an indication of the disease or abnormal lymphocytes.


As mononucleosis is a viral infection, antibiotics will not help cure the disease and it might last for weeks or months. Plenty of rest and refrainment from physical exertion are strongly recommended for a rapid recovery. However, in some cases secondary infections might need to be treated such as a sinus infection or tonsillitis. Antibiotics would need to be taken to fight these infections. Some people might develop a rash after taking amoxicillin. If necessary, other types of antibiotics are available on the market to treat secondary infections. If you experience a fever and/or pain, ibuprofen will help. In cases of severe swellings of the throat and tonsils, a corticosteroid medication might be indispensable.


Eating healthy, drinking plenty of water and refraining from physical exercise will accelerate the recovery process. If you experience pain or fever, ibuprofen (contained in Advil, Motrin and others) or acetaminophen (contained in Tylenol and others) can help. A sore throat can be relieved through the gargling with salt water several times a day. If you plan on returning to physical activities after mononucleosis be sure to wait until all symptoms have ceased and consult a doctor before resuming strenuous and exhausting activities.

Is isolation of infected people necessary?

No. As long as you don’t share drinking glasses, toothbrushes or other objects on which you could leave saliva and share it with other people, you do not need to be isolated from other people. In fact, people who have had mononucleosis and healthy people continue to have the virus in their saliva for years, independent of whether they ever had symptoms or not. And unfortunately, it can be reactivated at times. This means that even healthy people who are not experiencing symptoms can give the virus to someone else. It is even predicted, that most of the time, the virus is spread by healthy people, rather than those suffering from the disease.


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    • Pollyannalana profile image


      5 years ago from US

      Wow, interesting. Guess I never really knew what this was. Now I do. Thanks.

    • Jennifer Madison profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Madison 

      6 years ago from Lohmar

      Thanks a lot for your comment and wishes Christin! I am already feeling much better, took a while though and yes, I have never felt this sick either!

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 

      6 years ago from Midwest

      very informative hub. I remember having this as a teen and it was the sickest I ever remember being - not fun at all! Hope you are feeling well soon! Voted up, interesting, and useful.


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