What Is Mono? Definition, Treatment and Complications
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
EBV infectious mononucleosis
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.
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.
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!
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.
- 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?
A Doctor Talks About Mono
References and Further Reading
- Infectious Mononucleosis Symptoms, Causes, Treatment - What are the symptoms of mono? on MedicineNet
Read about mono treatment, symptoms, signs, risks, and diagnosis. The kissing disease is a contagious sickness caused by the Epstein Barr virus, which is transmitted in saliva.
It's sometimes called "the kissing disease," but kissing is just one of the ways that someone can catch mono.
- Mononucleosis: Can it recur? - MayoClinic.com
Rarely, mononucleosis can recur. Learn more about causes and complications.
- Understanding Mononucleosis - NYTimes.com
Dr. Philip LaRussa on some special risks of mononucleosis.