Mononucleosis is a contagious infection that is sometimes difficult to recognize. Learn more about it, so you can recognize it.
WHAT IS THIS MISLEADING INFECTION?
Mononucleosis, commonly called "mono", is a contagious infection caused by a virus (Epstein-Barr), that mostly affects children, adolescents, and young adults. It is sometimes referred to as the "kissing disease", because the virus that causes the infection is present in saliva. It isn't uncommon for young children to contract the virus but not develop the infection. Adolescents and young adults are generally more susceptible.
Although not very contagious, mononucleosis is transmitted through saliva, so drinking from the same glass or eating with the same utensils as an infected person, or even kissing an infected person, are all ways of catching it. Although it is not considered a serious infection from a medical perspective, it can nevertheless greatly affect the individuals who have it, sometimes causing disabling symptoms and forcing them to restrict their activities.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF MONONUCLEOSIS?
Mononucleosis is often difficult to diagnose because its manifestations are similar to those of many other infections and diseases. It can cause a lot of concern before a diagnosis is made.
It can take four to eight weeks after exposure to the virus for the disease to manifest itself. The most common signs and symptoms include:
- extreme fatigue
- fever and chills
- sore throat (sometimes severe)
- lumps in the neck due to swollen lymph nodes
Other possible symptoms include:
- feeling of general malaise
- muscle aches
The presence of one or more of these signs or symptoms may be observed.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE MONONUCLEOSIS?
If you think you may have mono, your doctor will probably do a physical examination. They will probably palpate your abdomen to check if your spleen is enlarged. This occurs in about 50% of people with mono. If it is, your doctor will recommend that you refrain from strenuous activity for a few weeks to avoid a rare but serious complication of a ruptured spleen.
A diagnosis of mononucleosis can be confirmed with a blood test. However, if the test is done within the first few weeks of infection, it may give an erroneous result (false negative).
HOW is MONONUCLEOSIS TREATED?
Because it is a viral infection, there is no drug that can eliminate it. Antibiotics are ineffective in this context. The disease must be allowed to run its course and the body's natural defenses must be given a chance to fight the virus. In the meantime, it is possible to relieve certain symptoms such as fever, sore throat, and muscle aches.
In fact, the use of analgesics (for pain), anti-inflammatories (for inflammation) and antipyretics (for fever) can help in many cases. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are good examples. Remember that you should always speak to a pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medication. Prescription drugs may sometimes be necessary, but this is rare.
WHAT MEASURES CAN BE HELPFUL?
The length of recovery can vary greatly from person to person. Usually, the disease resolves itself without after-effects. Certain measures can help you by improving your comfort and speeding up the healing process. Here are some of them:
- Get some rest! It is well known that rest is the key to recovery from mononucleosis.
- Don't go to school or work for as long as your doctor recommends. Additionally, try to avoid strenuous physical activity for at least a month. Follow your doctor's instructions in this regard as well.
- Drink plenty of fluids, ideally water.
- Try to maintain a healthy, balanced diet during your illness. Your may lose your appetite, but remember that you need to keep your strength up.
- Remember that the disease is still contagious. So, you need to take the necessary precautions to avoid infecting those around you.
Don't hesitate to speak to your pharmacist if you have any questions about mononucleosis or the medication used in this context.