What to Know About Mono

What Families Should Know About Mononucleosis

By: Ahmed Elbedewy MD, MBA, CPE, DNBPAS, FAAP
Medical Director, After Hours Pediatrics – South Florida & North Tampa

Mononucleosis (mono), also known as the kissing disease, is a viral infection that causes a contagious illness. Most common in teens and young adults, but also found in children, mono spreads through saliva and by sharing items such as cups, straws, toothbrushes or toys. The most common cause of mono is the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) as well as cytomegalovirus (CMV).


What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Mononucleosis?

Signs of mono usually show up about 1–2 months after a person is infected with the virus. Symptoms of infectious mononucleosis can vary child to child, and the most common symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for strep throat or the flu. Symptoms usually last for about 2-4 weeks, but some people continue to feel tired for weeks after that. Symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Fever and headache
  • Sore throat with swollen tonsils and swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue and rash
  • Abdominal pain, enlarged liver or spleen
  • Jaundice and loss of appetite

How Is Mono Diagnosed?

Mono is most often clinically diagnosed, including evaluating a patient’s history and a physical exam. A provider can occasionally order blood tests such as white blood cell count, antibodies and liver function test.


Can Mono be Treated?

There is no specific treatment for mono; however, rest, hydration and acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help to relieve symptoms. Refrain from giving your child aspirin as it can cause Reye syndrome, which may cause liver failure or can even be fatal. In some cases, corticosteroids, a type of steroid medication, can reduce swelling of the throat and tonsils. The spleen can get enlarged and carries risk of rupture if your child is injured or falls; therefore, your child should avoid contact sports, heavy lifting, active play and high intensity exercise until they fully recover and are cleared by a healthcare provider.


Can Mono Be Prevented?

Good hygiene is key as there is no vaccine to protect against the Epstein-Barr virus. Avoid close contact with anyone who has mono. Ensure frequent hand washing and avoid sharing drinks or utensils.


When Should I Reach out to a Healthcare Provider?

When in doubt always seek medical attention. Call your healthcare provider if your child has new or worsening symptoms. Call 911 or proceed to the nearest hospital if there are any urgent or emergent symptoms or concerns.


Disclaimer: This content is provided for general informational and educational purposes, is not a substitute for medical advice, and should not be used to treat any person. Seek medical advice immediately for an evaluation if you have any concerns.


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