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Mononucleosis is technically called infectious mononucleosis or glandular fever, but is generally referred to as "mono" for short. It occurs primarily between the ages of 10 and 35 years old. When younger children are infected, it causes little or no illness. Such exposure does, however, create an immunity to the disease. Nearly 90% of Americans have antibodies for mononucleosis by age 40. Mono has an incubation period of 30 to 40 days and the symptoms usually last 7 to 14 days but can last for several weeks. The virus can stay alive within the body for several months. The name mononucleosis comes from the fact that the disease distorts the white blood cells, causing them to only have one nucleus. Only a blood test called the mononucleosis spot test can determine if someone has the disease.

SYMPTOMS OF MONONUCLEOSIS

The following symptoms can be present with mono, but most likely not all will be.

Sore throat, usually red
Enlarged lymph nodes in all parts of the body
Fever
Nausea
Loss of appetite
Extreme fatigue
Enlarged spleen (2/3 of mono patients)
Ulceration of the pharynx (sometimes)
Swelling of the upper eyelid
Trouble breathing
Rapid heart beat
Red rash on the body (about 15% of mono patients)
Oversensitivity to light

CAUSES

Mononucleosis is thought to be caused by the Epstein-Barr (EB) virus in 9 out of 10 cases. It is transmitted primarily through oral contact which is why it is often referred to as "the kissing disease." It can also be spread by coughing, sneezing, or sharing drinks.

TREATMENT

There is no cure for mono. The disease simply has to run its course, and the best thing to do is make the infected person more comfortable for the duration. Because mono is a viral disease, antibiotics are only effective for secondary bacterial infections. The most important key to recovery is to get plenty of rest. The doctor may prescribe pain and nausea medication to relieve the symptoms. Stay hydrated and gargle salt water to relieve a sore throat. Be sure to stay away from any strenuous physical activity due to the risk of a ruptured spleen. Most of all, rest, rest, rest!