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What is infectious mononucleosis?

Infectious mononucleosis, also known as mononucleosis, "mono," or glandular fever, is characterized by swollen lymph glands and chronic fatigue.


  • Airway obstruction secondary to lymphoid tissue proliferation
  • Splenic rupture occurs in 0.1% of cases and often without significant trauma.
  • Aseptic meningitis, Guillain Barre, ataxia, aplastic and hemolytic anemia, ITP
  • Prolonged fatigue and malaise.

Symptoms of Mononucleosis

Kids with mononucleosis typically have with three to five days of mild symptoms such as a headache, malaise, and fatigue. The more classic symptoms of mono then follow and include:
  • a severe sore throat, with tonsils that are red, enlarged, and covered in pus
  • swollen glands (lymphadenopathy) in the neck
  • fever, which can be as high as 104°F to 105°F and may last one to two weeks
  • continued malaise and fatigue, which can be extreme
  • an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly), although this doesn't occur until your child has been sick for two or three weeks
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain
  • muscle aches (myalgias)

Other signs and symptoms of mono can include hepatitis, jaundice, and a rash.

Children with mono who are treated with an antibiotic, such as ampicillin, amoxicillin, or other penicillin-type antibiotics, also often get a bad rash.

How is infectious mononucleosis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination of your child, a diagnosis of mononucleosis is usually based on reported symptoms. However, diagnosis can be confirmed with specific blood tests and other laboratory tests, including:
  • white blood cell count
  • heterophile antibody test or monospot test, which, if positive, indicates infectious mononucleosis

How is infectious mononucleosis spread?

Mononucleosis is often spread through contact with infected saliva from the mouth. Symptoms can take between four to six weeks to appear and usually do not last beyond four months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Transmission is impossible to prevent, according to the CDC, because even symptom-free people can carry the virus in their saliva.

Mononucleosis Treatments

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for mono. Since it is caused by a virus, antibiotics obviously won't work to fight a mono infection, so the treatments for mono are largely supportive.

Those treatments include bed rest, fever control, pain control for the sore throat, and fluids to prevent dehydration.

Although sometimes used to treat mono, most experts recommend that steroids should only be used if a child's tonsils are so enlarged that they are truly causing an obstruction, which is not common.

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