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Mononucleosis (Mono)

Mononucleosis, also known as mono, is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Mono is best known for causing swollen glands and tiredness, but it can cause other symptoms as well. Mono is most likely to occur in older children, adolescents and those in their early-mid 20's; younger children are much less likely to get as sick if they are exposed to the virus. Most with mono recover without any problems. But the illness can take a long time to go away. In some cases, mono can cause prolonged fatigue or problems with the liver, spleen, or heart. So it is important to diagnose mono and to watch your child carefully.

How mono is spread

Mono can be easily transmitted from an infected person's saliva to an uninfected person by:

  • Drinking and eating after them

  • Sharing a straw, cup, toothbrushes, and eating utensils

  • Kissing and close contact

  • Handling toys that had contact with a child's drool

Symptoms of mono

Common symptoms of mono include:

  • Tiredness, weakness

  • Fever

  • Sore throat

  • Tender or swollen lymph nodes in the neck or armpits

  • Swollen tonsils

  • Rash

  • Sore muscles or stiffness

  • Headache

  • Loss of appetite, nausea

  • Dull pain in the stomach area

  • Enlarged liver and spleen

  • Headaches

  • Puffy eyes

  • Sensitivity to light

Treating mono

Because it is a viral infection, antibiotics won’t cure mono. Your child's healthcare provider may prescribe medicines to help ease your child's pain or discomfort. The best treatment for mono is rest. A child with mono should also drink lots of fluids. To help your child feel better and recover sooner:

  • Make sure your child gets enough rest.

  • Provide plenty of fluids.

  • The spleen may become enlarged with mono. Your child may need to avoid contact sports, and heavy lifting for a while in order to prevent injury to the spleen. Discuss this with your child's healthcare provider.

  • Treat fever, sore throat, headache, or aching muscles with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Your child's healthcare provider or nurse can help you with the correct dose, and at times will prescribe other treatments such as steroids for symptom control.Never give your child aspirin.

Symptoms usually last for a few weeks, but can sometimes last for 1 to 2 months or longer. Even after symptoms go away, your child may be tired or weak for some time.

Preventing the spread of mono

While you’re caring for a child with mono:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap often, especially before and after tending to your sick child. Wash your hands for at least 15 to 30 seconds each time.

  • Monitor your own health and that of other family members who might be at risk.

  • Clean dishes and eating utensils used by a sick child separately in very hot, soapy water. Or run them through the dishwasher.

When to seek medical care

Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if your otherwise healthy child:

  • Is 2 years old or older and the fever continues for 3 days

  • Has repeated fevers above 104°F (40°C) at any age

  • Has had a seizure caused by the fever

  • Experiences difficult or rapid breathing

  • Can’t be soothed or shows signs of irritability or restlessness

  • Seems unusually drowsy, listless, or unresponsive

  • Has trouble eating, drinking, or swallowing

  • Stops breathing, even for an instant

  • Shows signs of severe chest, neck, or belly pain

Online Medical Reviewer: Barry Zingman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2016
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