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The Ultimate Health Guide to Mononucleosis (Mono)
Updated on January 31, 2024
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The Ultimate Health Guide to Mononucleosis (Mono)
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Infectious mononucleosis, or mono, is a contagious disease caused by several viruses. It’s a common infection that affects nearly 95% of adults worldwide.

Most people aren’t severely affected by mono and feel okay without treatment. But some signs of infectious mono may bring discomfort and interfere with your daily activities.

If you get infected by mono, you must be wary of related health problems like an enlarged spleen. Drinking lots of fluids and getting plenty of rest can help you recover from mono.

The Ultimate Health Guide to Mononucleosis (Mono) 2

What Causes Mono?

The most common cause of infectious mono is the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It belongs to the herpes virus family, also knowns as human herpes virus type 4. 

EBV can lead to symptom-free mono and rarely causes health problems. But it can also trigger symptoms in some people.

Once you have this bug, it stays inactive or dormant in your throat or blood cells. The virus can reactivate at any point in your life and repeatedly cause symptoms.

Another virus that causes infectious mono is the cytomegalovirus (CMV). It's another type of human herpesvirus that is milder than EBV.

But other viruses can give you infectious mono, too.

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How Is Mono Spread?

Health experts call infectious mono the kissing disease for a reason. It’s because saliva can spread the virus.

You can transmit it through coughing or sneezing. But you can also catch it in other ways, like sharing food utensils with someone infected. 

Other bodily fluids such as semen and blood may also transmit the viruses that cause mono. Sexual contact or blood transfusions with an infected person can put you at risk of getting it.2

Who Is At Risk For Mononucleosis?

Anyone can get mono, no matter their age. Children, adolescents, and young adults are at higher risk of catching mono. 

Most people acquire mono during early school age. Young children often have no symptoms, so the infection usually goes undetected. 

About one in four adults in their 20s are more likely to get EBV. This can lead to infectious mono. 

What Are The Symptoms of Mono?

Your symptoms may show up four to six weeks after your first exposure to the virus. They may show up gradually. But there are times when they don’t appear at all.

Infected people may show different signs. But the most common mono symptoms are:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Fever or feeling feverish
  • Sore throat
  • Body pains
  • Headaches
  • Enlarged lymph glands
  • Skin rashes
  • Swollen spleen or liver

Mono symptoms like fever and sore throat usually subside after two to four weeks. But some people experience fatigue and swollen lymph nodes for much longer.

On rare occasions, the signs of infectious mono can last up to six months or more.

Although the symptoms of mono bring discomfort, the infection resolves on its own. It also doesn’t leave behind any long-term effects on your health.


Mono is called the kissing disease because it's spread through saliva.

However, it's not only spread through kissing. Sharing utensils or even accidentally being around when an infected person sneezes can spread it.

How to Test for Mono Infections

Your doctor will initially perform a physical exam. They will check for swollen lymph nodes on your neck, armpits, and groins. They will also assess for an enlarged liver or spleen. 

Afterward, they may order testing to confirm a mono diagnosis. Mono diagnostic testing is a blood test that looks for heterophils in your blood. 

Heterophils are antibodies your body produces when there’s a presence of EBV. You can get tested for mono at your doctor’s office, clinic, hospital, or any other medical setting that offers it. 

Here are the types of mono lab tests:

  1. Monospot Test — detects heterophils in your bloodstream, which suggests an active mono infection
  2. Epstein-Barr Virus Antibody Test — looks for specific EBV antibodies
  3. Complete Blood Count (CBC) — checks for increases in your white blood cells (WBC), which indicates that your body is fighting a virus

If you can’t visit a clinic or a hospital, you may also try at-homo mono tests. You can buy home testing kits online, which will require you to collect a blood sample.

Treatment for Mononucleosis

Mono is a viral infection, so antibiotics will not help clear the virus. You should avoid self-medicating with penicillins like ampicillin or amoxicillin. 

That said, your doctor may suggest treatments for organs affected by the virus. The following tips will help relieve your infectious mono symptoms:

  • Drink lots of fluid to stay hydrated
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Take medications for fever and body pains
  • Avoid contact sports until you recover fully

Your spleen may remain swollen or enlarged after you recover. So you must avoid any strenuous activities that may cause it to rupture.

How to Prevent Mono Infection

The virus that causes mono is passed on through saliva. The virus can live in your mouth and saliva for months, even if you’re symptom-free.4

If you think you’re infected, you must avoid kissing or sharing these:

  • Foods and drinks
  • Eating utensils (e.g., spoon and fork)
  • Personal hygiene items (e.g., toothbrush)

Always wash your hands with soap and water to help prevent the transmission of the virus. Currently, there is no vaccine against infectious mono. 

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Updated on January 31, 2024
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4 sources cited
Updated on January 31, 2024
  1. Epstein-Barr Virus.” Cleveland Clinic.
  2. Mononucleosis.” Cleveland Clinic.
  3. Mononucleosis.” Mayo Clinic.
  4. Infectious Mononucleosis.” John Hopkins Medicine.
Cristine Santander
Cristine Santander
Content Contributor
Cristine Santander is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. She has a B.S. in Psychology and enjoys writing about health and wellness.
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