Can you really getting it from kissing?
When most people hear the word mononucleosis, they probably think of teenagers and kissing. While this might be accurate most of the time, adults and young children can get it too. Also, kissing isn’t the only way it can be spread. How is it transmitted? How serious of an infection is it? How is it treated?
Mononucleosis, or mono, is an infection that is caused most often by the Epstein-Barr virus. It’s transmitted through saliva. This means that you can not only get it from kissing, but from sharing a glass or food utensils with someone who is sick or if an infected person, sneezes or coughs on you or you touched something that they sneezed or coughed on. It’s not as contagious as many people believe—you’re more likely to get a common cold than mono. You can get it at any age, but young children don’t usually have symptoms and most adults have already been exposed to the virus, so their immune systems have antibodies against it. This is why it seems to be more commonly diagnosed in teenagers.
Symptoms include fever, sore throat, fatigue, swollen tonsils, swollen lymph nodes in your neck/armpits, headache, skin rash and swollen spleen. The incubation period is usually four to six weeks after you’ve been exposed. Typically, the fever and sore throat last only a couple of weeks, but the fatigue, enlarged lymph nodes and swollen spleen can last for several weeks. Sometimes, it’s misdiagnosed as strep throat and treated with antibiotics, but the symptoms don’t get any better. If this is the case, it’s a good indication that you have might have mono. If you have any of these symptoms and your condition isn’t improving after a week or so, you should be seen by a doctor. This is to confirm that you have mono, so you’ll know what to do for treatment and prevent any complications. Sometimes, the complications can be very serious. Your spleen has a significant amount of blood flow through it, so when it’s swollen, it’s at increased risk of rupturing and cause internal bleeding. Your doctor will be able to examine you and determine how swollen it is. If they are concerned, they will recommend that you not participate in any vigorous activities, like sports, for several weeks. Some other possible complications, but usually less common, include hepatitis (inflammation of your liver), jaundice (yellowing of your skin due to liver damage), anemia (low amount of red blood cells), thrombocytopenia (low amount of platelets), myocarditis (inflammation of your heart), meningitis, encephalitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome and extreme swelling of your tonsils that make it difficult to breathe.
There isn’t a specific medication or treatment for mononucleosis. Since it’s caused by a virus, antibiotics aren’t effective in treating it. The best way to feel better is to treat your symptoms. If your throat is sore, drinking cool (not cold) water and fruit juices to soothe it. This is also key in preventing you from becoming dehydrated. It’s essential to eat as healthy as possible. Try to find foods that won’t irritate your throat. Another option to lessen your sore throat is to gargle with salt water several times a day. The right ratio is about half a teaspoon of salt to every eight ounces of warm water. It’s useful to take over-the-counter medications that help relieve pain and reduce your fever, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. (Note: Do not give aspirin to children under the age of 16 because it has been linked to causing Reye’s syndrome). Since the fatigue can last several months, it’s vital that you get plenty of rest and don’t resume your normal activities too soon or you could have a relapse. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding when to restart activities, especially sports, that could increase your risk of having a ruptured spleen. A key thing to keep in mind is that while your immune system is fighting this infection, it’s more susceptible to contracting a secondary infection because it’s not as strong as it normally is. If you do develop a secondary infection, be sure to see your doctor for treatment, take any medication that they prescribe and follow all of their instructions.
The best way to prevent getting mononucleosis, or a secondary infection, is by not sharing food, dishes, glasses or utensils with others. This is especially true if you know they have had a recent mono infection because it can last in their saliva for several months afterwards. Another thing to practice is good hand hygiene. By washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, you’ll be less likely to get mono from touching surfaces where others might have coughed or sneezed. All of these things also help prevent spreading mono to others if you already have it. Unfortunately, there isn’t a vaccine to prevent it at this time.
Mononucleosis isn’t a fun thing to experience, but it’ll go away, especially if you don’t over do it and allow your body the time it needs to heal. If you have any questions or concerns about mononucleosis, please speak with your doctor. If you would like more information, please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mononucleosis page at https://www.cdc.gov/epstein-barr/about-mono.html