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Running with Illness: Mononucleosis

Updated on April 21, 2007

Mononucleosis symptoms include:

  • Initially, loss of energy, chills, and a lack of appetite
  • Bad sore throat and swollen lymph nodes (for the first 2 weeks)
  • Fever
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Persistently tender spleen (felt as a pain in your left side)
  • Rarely, a pink rash will appear on the body

Mononucleosis symptoms generally take about 4 to 8 weeks to appear, though on occasion, it can take up to 12 weeks for symptoms to develop.

In terms of physiology, it is clear that many of the factors that weigh heavily on exercise performance-particularly hydration levels, blood-sugar levels, and cardiopulmonary status-are the same ones chiefly affected by certain disease states. Mononucleosis is an illness that hits many younger runners, and can cause difficulty running for quite a while.

Mononucleosis, known by many as "Mono" (Mono) is a viral infection whose effects linger for months. Younger runners are especially vulnerable. Rare is the high-school track team that escapes this illness entirely in any given year.

Rupture of the spleen, which can be fatal, is the greatest risk during the convalescent, or recovery, phase. As a result, conservatism, in the form of complete rest, is the best option. Unfortunately, a patient recovering from Mono just really needs to be a couch potato for ten weeks from the time of diagnosis. After Mono the recovery is variable from person to person, but in any case it is important to return slowly.

Mono is a particularly difficult illness for runners to deal with because of the duration of the illness and the duration of the recovery, which for each patient may differ greatly. With injuries incurred by the act of running itself, the duration of the ensuing lay-off (if any) and the mode of treatment are often well established, minimizing the uncertainty, if not the frustration, of such a setback. With an illnesses like Mono, however, things are often "touch and go"-a runner needs to rely on subtler cues in order to determine training and racing readiness, and must be aware of a variety of factors.

Unlike running with a common cold or the flu (please see my HubPages article Running with Illness: The Common Cold), running with Mono can be much more dangerous. As mentioned above, the greatest danger is the possibility of rupturing of the spleen, which can be fatal. Mono relapsed can also occurring, and instead of spending an extra day or two in bed as with the flu, Mono patients may find themselves in bed for an extra 10 weeks!

It is best to set up a plan with your doctor and to be closely monitored before and after you begin to exercise again. If you do start to exercise again and feel weak or pain, stop immediately! Give your body the proper time to recover and you will be thankful in the long run. It is probably difficult for any runner to spend 10 weeks resting, but 10 weeks is better than 20, so give yourself the proper recovery time!


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  • lesleyk1 profile image

    lesleyk1 9 years ago from Australia

    Great information! I suffered from mono for a long time til I found a natural treatment that works:

    I found it at: http;//

  • sheristeele profile image

    sheristeele 7 years ago from Siler City, NC

    Thanks for this hub. My teenager has suffered a ruptured spleen and this is one of many ailments we are concerned about at this time. They try not to remove a ruptured spleen in pediatric patients now a days because of the concern of the child getting mono which can be fatal rupturing the spleen (because the spleen helps fight off mono).

  • profile image

    simplifyyourlife 6 years ago

    lesleyki's link is advertising

  • profile image

    track runner 6 years ago

    Thanks, I am a junior in high school and was diagnosed with mono 1 week ago. I'm an avid runner and log over 100 miles each summer and winter then run cross country and track. I got sick the friday before practice started and was told by my doctor that track may not be a wise thing to do. I have been in and out of school now and when I am able to go, usually every other day or 1/2 days I sleep through most of my classes which kills me because I love learning and study all the time. I am probably going to take the track season off after reading this because of how tired I am.

  • profile image

    Sophie 5 years ago

    I've had mono for about 2 weeks now, and my symptoms (sore throat, swollen glands, fever, chills) are still persistent. How long until I start recovering? I am aware that I will be tired for a while after, but how long (just an estimate) will it be until I begin recovery from the other symptoms? I'm in a lot of pain and I really appreciate a reply. I'm 17 and also losing weight very fast as a result from pain when trying to eat. Thank you.

  • profile image

    Kirsten Marusich 5 years ago

    Hey Sophie, Mono symptoms on an average last about 8 weeks. I unfortunatley had mono for 6 months if not a little longer. I went from 112 to 92 lbs when I was a little younger than you. Make sure that you take it easy on yourself and EAT!! you should be feeling better within the next couple of weeks if not already. If you have any specific questions feel free to ask :) I am commenting on this not just bc of past experience but I now have been diagnosed with a "relapse" of mono. So I feel your pain. On a lighter note I hope that you are doing better! :)

  • profile image

    D.L. 5 years ago

    Thanks for the info! I've had mono for 3 months. I tried to workout the first month (when I didn't know it was mono) and as a result I continued to get worse and worse. Prior to having mono I was training in Mixed Martial Arts 2 hours a day and running 4-7 miles a day. Now 45 minutes of walking wears me out. I've been trying to gauge how long I should be out and how I can start getting back into working out so now having a number (10 weeks recovery) at least gives me a goal and makes me feel less helpless!

    PS - the doc said I can start by walking for 30 min, with just a little running at 5.0 (barely a jog!); she said I should be able to read a book while excercising. I'll follow her plan for another 4-6 weeks (then I'll hit my 10 weeks of legitimate rest) and try to increase after that! Thanks for the info.

  • profile image

    nathan2mile 5 years ago

    what does it mean if i have had mono 3 times?

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    catherine 4 years ago

    OMG thank u so much I am in the recovery phase and it has been killing me so much because I missed my track and cross country seasons.

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