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Infectious mononucleosis (mono) is often called the kissing disease. The virus that causes mono is transmitted through saliva, so you can get it through kissing, but you can also be exposed through a cough or sneeze, or by sharing a glass or food utensil with someone who has mono. However, mononucleosis isn’t as contagious as some infections, such as the common cold.

You’re most likely to get mononucleosis with all the signs and symptoms if you’re an adolescent or young adult. Young children usually have few symptoms, and the infection often goes unrecognized.

If you have mononucleosis, it’s important to be careful of certain complications such as an enlarged spleen. Rest and adequate fluids are key to recovery.



Symptoms of mono can often be mistaken for the flu or strep throat. Call your doctor if your child has a fever, a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes (in the neck, underarms, or groin), or unexplained constant fatigue or weakness.

Other symptoms of mono can include:

sore muscles
larger-than-normal liver and spleen
skin rash
abdominal pain
Kids with mono may have different combinations of these symptoms, and some teens may have symptoms so mild that they are hardly noticeable. Your doctor will likely perform a blood test to make a firm diagnosis.

Mono symptoms usually go away on their own within 2 to 4 weeks. But in some teens, the fatigue and weakness can last for months.

Mono and Sports

Doctors usually recommend that kids who get mono avoid sports for at least a month after symptoms are gone because the spleen is usually enlarged temporarily from the illness. An enlarged spleen can rupture easily — causing internal bleeding, fever, and abdominal pain — and require emergency surgery. Vigorous activities, contact sports, weightlifting, cheerleading, or even wrestling with siblings or friends should be avoided until your doctor gives the OK.


Most kids who get mono recover completely with no problem, but in rare cases, complications can occur. These can include problems with the liver or spleen, anemia, meningitis, trouble breathing, or inflammation of the heart.

Prevention and Treatment

There is no vaccine for the Epstein-Barr virus, but you can try to protect your kids from mono by making sure that they avoid close contact with other kids who have it. But sometimes people have the virus without any symptoms and can still pass it to others. So teach your kids to wash their hands often, and not to share drinks or eating utensils with others, even when they seem healthy.

The best treatment for mono is plenty of rest, especially early in the course of the illness when symptoms are the most severe. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help to relieve the fever and aching muscles. Remember, never give aspirin to a child who has a viral illness because this has been associated with the development of Reye syndrome, which may lead to liver failure and can be fatal.

In most cases, the symptoms of mono go away in a matter of weeks with plenty of rest and fluids. If the symptoms seem to linger, or if you have any other questions, talk with your doctor.

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