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In This Article
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.
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.
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.
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:
“These symptoms may not develop altogether. That is why diagnosing mono can be difficult,” says Dr. Mira.
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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:
The types of mono laboratory tests include:
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:
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.
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.
You don’t have to do any special preparations before taking this test. However, you may ask your doctor for any pretest instructions.
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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