Understanding Mononucleosis

Understanding MononucleosisIf you have teenagers or college students at home for summer break, this might be a good time to discuss mononucleosis (mono), an infectious and highly contagious disease that is transmitted primarily through saliva. The hallmark of this viral infection is intense fatigue, which is often accompanied by a sore throat, fever, and swollen glands.

Mono, which is often referred to as the “kissing disease,” is very common in high schools and on college campuses, mainly because so many young people are in close quarters, often sharing physical space, food, water bottles, and the like. Additionally, many students try to juggle heavy course loads along with numerous sporting and social activities — usually at the expense of eating a nutritious diet and getting enough sleep. All of this can lead to stress, which in turn can lower the body’s ability to fight off infections, such as mononucleosis.

When you talk with your children, make sure that they know the symptoms of mono, and advise them to tell you (or, if they are away from home, advise them to go to a student health center) if any of those symptoms develop and last for more than a few days. A medical professional can provide a diagnosis by performing a simple blood test that can detect the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mono.

There is no specific treatment for mononucleosis, other than taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve sore throat pain and reduce fever. However, as the virus runs its course, it’s essential to:

  • Prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water and other fluids, even if swallowing is painful. Some people find warm liquids to be soothing, while others prefer cold drinks.
  • Avoid contact sports for at least a month. The reason is that the spleen may become enlarged as it fights off the mono infection, which is a good thing. However, it’s important to avoid intense physical activities that can increase the risk of spleen damage and rupture.
  • Get plenty of rest. This usually means taking a break from school and other activities for at least one week. In order to avoid falling too far behind, a student should do as much as he or she feels up to, with coursework being a top priority.

There are a few simple steps that can help young people avoid mononucleosis and otherwise stay healthy. These include washing their hands thoroughly and often, not sharing food and drinks, and getting sufficient rest. Also, taking some time to relax is vital. In high school and college, there is a lot of pressure on students to succeed both academically and socially. All of that pressure can build up and create stress, which can lower the body’s ability to resist infections.

If you would like to talk with a physician or arrange for a wellness examination for your high school or college student, contact or visit the South Tampa Immediate Care walk-in clinic. No appointments are necessary.