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Infectious mononucleosis, or mono, (commonly known as the kissing disease) is an Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) that can cause symptoms similar to strep throat and the flu and is most common in ages 15 to 25.

How is Mono Spread?

Mono is spread via saliva, which is how it came to be nicknamed the kissing disease. However, mono germs are also spread when an infected individual sneezes, coughs or shares food or drink with someone.

Keep in mind that not all people who come in contact with the EBV that causes mono will develop symptoms. Young children, for example, may show mild symptoms or none at all. Even if someone has no symptoms, they can still pass on the mono virus.

Mono Symptoms

Mono symptoms may not show until four to six weeks after the initial infection. Symptoms include:

  • Constant tiredness
  • Fever
  • Sore throat, perhaps with white patches
  • Muscle aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes around the neck or underarms
  • Headaches
  • Decreased appetite
  • Swollen liver or spleen

Most symptoms will subside on their own in two to four weeks. In some cases, exhaustion and spleen swelling may stick around for longer.

If your child is exhibiting mono symptoms and you are concerned that he or she is infected, your physician can complete a blood test to confirm a diagnosis.

Managing Mono

Because mono is a viral infection, there is no antibiotic to treat it. Doctors can provide prescription medication to relieve swelling and pain if needed. When caring for an individual with mono, make sure he or she gets plenty of rest, fluids and nutrition.

  • For aches and fevers, give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Never give aspirin to a child with a virus, as this has been linked to Reye's syndrome.
  • Gargle salt water to soothe a sore throat.

Due to exhaustion, your child might need help keeping up with school work. Contact the school to alert them of your child's sickness and see what can be done to ensure it does not affect your child's academic standing.

Children with mono are encouraged to avoid contact sports for about one month or until a physician has cleared them to play. Swelling caused by mono increases the risk of the spleen rupturing. Attempting to play contact sports before physician consent is granted may cause dangerous internal bleeding. If your child experiences sudden severe pain in the upper left abdomen, seek medical care immediately, as this may be a sign of a ruptured spleen.

Preventing Mono

Mono can be tricky to prevent because there is no vaccine and infected individuals don't always show symptoms. The most effective way to protect against mono is to practice good hygiene. Have your child wash his or her hands frequently and thoroughly.

Ask your child not to share food or drinks – especially if you know the person he or she is sharing with has been infected with mono in the past.

Illness and Injury Pediatrics