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Mononucleosis (Mono) Test — How to Know If You Have Mono
Updated on October 3, 2022
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Mononucleosis (Mono) Test — How to Know If You Have Mono

Mononucleosis (Mono) is an infectious disease caused by common viruses. Infectious mono is also called ‘kissing disease’ because it’s commonly spread by infected saliva. 

Mono symptoms resemble the flu. Most symptoms are not severe but can last for weeks or months.

There are several tests to diagnose infectious mononucleosis. They include examining your blood for antibodies that form during an infection.

We asked the help of Dr. Rizza Mira, our resident medical reviewer for KYDNA, on everything there is to know about mononucleosis testing.

Dr. Mira is a public health expert who understands how infectious diseases like mono spread.

Mononucleosis (Mono) Test — How to Know If You Have Mono 2

Quick Facts on Mono Tests

  • Different viruses cause mononucleosis or mono
  • The most common cause is the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)1
  • Different tests can diagnose infectious mononucleosis, including antibody testing
  • Mono testing is usually done with a sample of your blood
  • You may not need to do anything to prepare for the test

Why Take A Mono Test?

Doctors may initially diagnose you with mono based on your symptoms and a physical exam. However, many of them order mono testing to conclude and rule it out. 

Mono testing will help confirm if you have infectious mono. 

What Do Mono Tests Check For?

A mono diagnostic test looks for heterophile antibodies in your blood. They’re your immune system’s response to infections such as mono.

Although other viruses can cause this infection, the most common culprit behind it is EBV. This virus belongs to the herpes virus family — also known as the human herpes virus 4.

When Should You Get A Mono Test?

Your doctor or a health expert can order mono testing if they suspect your symptoms are due to infectious mono. If you have these symptoms, then you may need a mono test:

Early Signs of Mono

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits
  • Head and body aches
  • Enlarged liver, spleen, or both
  • Rash

“These symptoms may not develop altogether. That is why diagnosing mono can be difficult,” says Dr. Mira.

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How to Test for Mono Infections

You can get tested for mono at your doctor’s office, clinic, hospital, or any other medical setting where mono blood tests are available. Here are your options:

Lab Tests for Mono

The types of mono laboratory tests include:

  1. Monospot Test — detects antibodies called heterophile in your bloodstream. They are present during or after infections like mononucleosis
  2. EBV Antibody Test — looks for the specific EBV antibodies that correspond to EBV, which primarily cause mono infection
  3. Complete Blood Count — checks for increases in your white blood cells (WBC)2

At Home Mono Test

If a trip to the hospital isn’t possible, you can test for mononucleosis at home. There are test kits you can purchase online. 

They have the materials you’ll need to collect a blood specimen through a finger prick. The 2 main options for at-home mono testing are:

  • Self-testing kits — have a test strip where you can place a drop of your blood. Within 3 to 5 minutes, you’ll see the result in an indicator window of the testing device.
  • Self-collection kits — include collecting your blood sample at home and mailing it back to the testing company for analysis. They’ll send you the results within a few days. 

How Much Does A Mono Test Cost?

How much the test will cost you depends on your health insurance coverage and additional tests performed. The price may also vary on where you’ll get the test from.

The cost may range from $49 to $59 in different facilities across the country.

It’s best to contact your insurance provider or the laboratory conducting the test for more accurate cost information.

How Mono Testing Works

Your healthcare provider will need a blood sample to test for the mono infection. They’ll place a small amount of it on a test strip, slide, or other testing equipment.

Before Your Mono Test

You don’t have to do any special preparations before taking this test. However, you may ask your doctor for any pretest instructions.

Collecting Your Blood Sample

A medical professional, such as a medical technologist, will collect your blood specimen. They will prick your finger or draw blood from a vein in your arm with a small needle.

Finger prick

The medical technologist will disinfect the tip of your finger and prick it with the sharp needle of a lancet. They may press your finger lightly to squeeze the blood.

Blood is then collected into a pipette or a small glass tube.

Blood draw

Medical experts will tie an elastic band to your arm. Once they see a good vein to draw blood from, they’ll clean and disinfect the injection site.

A small needle will be inserted into the vein, collecting your blood into a glass vial or tube. If there’s enough blood collected, they’ll pull out the needle and untie the elastic band.

Collecting a good amount of blood usually takes 5 to 10 minutes.

After You Take The Test

After collecting your blood sample, they usually apply a bandage or a sterile cotton ball to the punctured skin. You may also apply pressure to stop the bleeding.

There may be mild to moderate pain when the lancet or needle pricks your skin. After that, you may have a slight throbbing at the site. You may also experience:

  • Swelling
  • Discomfort
  • Stinging
  • Inflammation
  • Bruising
  • Continuous bleeding

Most of these signs wear off. The worst that can happen is an infection, which is extremely rare. Tell your doctor immediately if you suspect an infection or if the effects last longer than usual.

How to Interpret Your Mono Test Results

The results of the mono test will either show you’re positive or negative for the viral infection. It mainly depends on the heterophile antibodies detected in your blood. 

A positive test result means there are antibodies in your blood. Besides showing symptoms consistent with mono, this result confirms a diagnosis of infectious mononucleosis.

A negative result may indicate that you don’t have an infectious mono. However, there are instances when your doctor may ask for additional tests to rule out the cause of your symptoms.

Dr. Mira says there is a "right time" to take these mono tests if you want accurate results.

“A test done too soon (first week of infection) may be negative when in fact you have the illness. High levels of antibodies can be found in the blood from the third to fifth week of your mono infection.”

Are Mono Tests Accurate?

A mononucleosis spot test helps detect the presence of heterophile antibodies in your blood. However, there are specific circumstances where it can give false-negative results.

A false negative means your test shows you’re negative for mono, even though you have it. This can happen if testing is done too early, such as 1 to 2 weeks after the illness starts.

Meanwhile, the test can show a false-positive result for people with other diseases, such as:

  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Lupus
  • HIV infection
  • Rubella, a type of measles
  • Herpes simplex virus

The EBV test may be better for diagnosing a mono infection if you have these conditions.

According to Dr. Mira, a viral culture is the gold standard for diagnosing infectious mononucleosis. But it is very difficult and costly to perform.

What To Do After Taking A Mono Test?

There are no specific treatments for infectious mono. Keep in mind that antibiotics cannot treat viral infections. Mono usually resolves on its own as your body’s immune system fights it off. 

 “It usually takes about 4 weeks for a mono infection to resolve,” says Dr. Mira.

Here are tips to relieve your symptoms and help you recover from a mono infection. 

  • Get enough rest
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids such as fruit juices
  • Take over-the-counter medications for your sore throat or fever
  • Gargle with warm salt water to relieve sore throat
  • Hold off from heavy exercises

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Resources

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  1. Epstein-Barr Virus and Infectious Mononucleosis.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Mononucleosis.” Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
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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