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What Is Mono? Definition, Treatment and Complications

Updated on January 14, 2016
Mono is known as the "kissing disease" but it is spread many other ways as well.
Mono is known as the "kissing disease" but it is spread many other ways as well. | Source

Many have heard of mononucleosis. While not fatal, it can cause many health complications for those suffering from it. Some patients are still feeling the effect of the virus months after first contracting it.

If you are suffering from mono, it may seem like you will never feel well again.

Find out what mono is, how you get it and ways to feel better.

What is Mono?

Mononucleosis is a viral infection that affects different parts of the body. The virus is known by many different names, depending on where you live.

It is a very common disease. Nearly everyone is exposed to it at some point in their life (usually when they are a child or young adult) but only about 30% actually display full symptoms.

Mono was first recognized as its own disease back in the late 1800's by Nil Filatov and Emil Pfeiffer.

Different Names for Mono

(click column header to sort results)
Epstein–Barr virus  
Pfeiffer's disease  
Glandular Fever
Infectious Mononucleosis
Kissing Disease
Filatov's disease
EBV infectious mononucleosis
Depending on what country you live in or what doctor you see, Mono is called by different names when diagnosed.

How Do You Get Mono?

Mono is spread through saliva contact between an infected person and another individual.

While it can be spread by kissing someone, it can also be spread by sharing drinks, eating utensils or being near someone when they sneeze.

Practicing good hygiene and making sure you are not sharing cups, spoons, forks or food will help to keep you from getting the virus.

But if you are around the airborne droplets or unknowingly touch a surface with the droplets, you may be exposed despite your best efforts to avoid it.

Mono can have a wide variety of symptoms.
Mono can have a wide variety of symptoms. | Source

When Do People Usually Get Mono?

Usually anyone from young babies to young adults under the age of twenty five are the most susceptible to mono.

Part of the reason is because they are more likely to share items that may have saliva and also to be in close proximity with many others at school or daycare.

The other reason is that most adults have immunity to the virus because they have already been exposed to it.

Most of the time, mono is a one-time disease that your body will fight after the initial exposure or illness.

What Symptoms Will I Experience With Mono?

According to Dr. Melissa Stoppler, when your body is first manifesting the signs of mono you may feel tired, lose your appetite and have chills. Since this can also be the onset of the flu or even a cold, you may not realize, at first, that it is mono.

The worst symptoms of mono then appear and include a sore throat, swollen glands and a fever.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, a trip to the doctor's office can help you figure out if you have mono or something else.

Infectious Mono under a miscroscope.
Infectious Mono under a miscroscope. | Source

How Is Mono Diagnosed?

Mono is diagnosed through a blood test to look for Epstein-Barr antibodies that the body produces.

Very early in the illness, the antibodies may not be evident enough for the doctor to be sure that it is mono even though he or she may suspect it.

A patient will likely receive other tests such as a flu swab and a strep test, just to rule out those possibilities.

A doctor may also look at patterns within the community or school. If many people are being diagnosed with mono then it is more likely that the patient with those symptoms has it as well.

What Treatment Options Are Available?

Since mono is a virus and not a bacterial infection, there is not a specific treatment available. Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, not viruses.

The best way to get better from mono is to rest, not participate in any strenuous or stressful activities and to drink plenty of fluids.

Most doctors will suggest Tylenol or Advil for aches and pains.

Since mono is a virus, resting gives your body the best chance of fighting the illness.

Mono can last up to a month sometimes and the fatigue can last even longer!

If the symptoms of mono last for more than six months, you may have chronic mono.
If the symptoms of mono last for more than six months, you may have chronic mono. | Source

Recurring and Chronic Mono

Although most people only get mono once in their lives (and then have an immunity), some can get mono again months or years down the road.

Recurring mono happens when the body's immune system is compromised in some way either through another illness or a chronic condition.

There are also some people who seem unable to shake the symptoms months or years after the initial illness.

If the symptoms for mono do not go away before six months, you will be considered to have chronic mono.

It is important that people who keep experiencing the illness to work with their doctor to further eliminate the possibility of another disease mimicking the symptoms of mono and to talk about other options for treatment.

Take Aways

  • Most people will only get mono one time in their lives.
  • Mono is spread by saliva contact.
  • There are many who are exposed to the virus but never show symptoms. Their body will still make antibodies to prevent further infection.
  • The best treatment options for mono are time, rest and fluids. Your doctor will let you know if there are any medications you can take for pain or fever.
  • It is normal for the fatigue from mono to last several months.
  • If you are still feeling ill after six months, you may have chronic mono.
  • Working with your doctor will insure you have the best treatment plan and can get better, sooner.

Have you ever had mono?

See results

A Doctor Talks About Mono


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for an interesting and useful hub that will be especially appreciated by any dealing with the disease.

    • moonlake profile image


      4 years ago from America

      My youngest son had mono when he was 3. He went through it with very little problems. Our daughter had mono when she was a teen. She was very sick. Very useful hub.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      4 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      My pleasure. I think it was towards the bottom before comments.

    • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      L C David 

      4 years ago from Florida

      Thanks Kristen. Couldn't find what you mentioned but do appreciate you reading!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      4 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      LCD, great hub on mono and how to get it. This is full of great information to share this lens. Congrats on HOTD! By the way, I think you meant take a ways an not always. Just a typo there.

    • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      L C David 

      7 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for stopping by. There really are a lot of illnesses that mimic other ones. Thank goodness there are medical tests to sort it all out.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative hub. I had never heard about mono. Thanks for introduce this with us. I learn much here. Voted up!


    • agapsikap profile image


      7 years ago from Philippines

      That is a very interesting subject LCDWriter. I 'm not aware of the signs and symptoms of Mononucleosis. There so many bacterial infections and viruses around having the same symptoms and it is really hard to recognized which is which. Thank you for such informative hub and useful tips.Voted up and sharing.

    • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      L C David 

      7 years ago from Florida

      Glad I could share some information, vertualit. Thanks for commenting!

    • vertualit profile image

      Abdus Salam 

      7 years ago from Bangladesh

      I don't have any idea before about Mono. Very informative and useful article. voted thanks for sharing...

    • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      L C David 

      7 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for stopping by Just Ask Susan. The illness can really get you down. Glad to hear that he recovered!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      My youngest son, at the age of 20, unfortunately got mono. A lot of rest and fluids was the key to his recovery.

      Very useful article. Voted up +++ and shared.


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