What is mono?
Mono, or Pfeiffer's disease or infectious mononucleosis, is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. The virus is in saliva and is thought to spread through kissing, which is why it's also known as the kissing disease.
Not everyone infected with the virus develops symptoms, often the immune system can fight it, but with an a little bit weaker immune system the virus gets the opportunity to cause symptoms. Depending on the strength of the immune system the symptoms can range from mild to quite severe. The disease is most common in teenagers an young adults. Almost every thirty-year-old has been in contact with the Epstein-Barr virus, of which many haven't developed any symptoms.
When the virus first enters the body, the immune system creates antibodies against the virus, so that when it encounters the virus again later in time, it will be able to eliminate it much more quickly. This means you can usually only get mono or Pfeiffer's disease once in your life.
What are symptoms of mono?
After infection with the Epstein-Barr virus it can take 4 to 7 weeks to develop symptoms, this is called the incubation period. The most serious symptoms of mono resemble a laryngitis:
- Swollen neck glands
- Sore throat
Contrary to laryngitis, the symptoms of mono last much longer. Laryngitis usually clears up in a week, while mono can last for 3 or 4 weeks.
Other, less frequent, symptoms of mono:
- Enlarged liver
- Jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin)
Fatigue is the most common symptom of mono. While most other symptoms usually subside after 3 or 4 weeks, fatigue can last for several more weeks after the other symptoms subside. In just 2% of the cases fatigue can last for months.
It is not exactly clear how many people an person with mono can infect, but a large majority of people in their thirties have been in contact with the virus.
Is mono serious and should I see a doctor?
A doctor will think of mono when a teenager or young adult has symptoms resembling laryngitis or fatigue for several weeks. There is no effective medication to cure mono. Antibiotics don't work, because mono is caused by a virus, not bacteria. Patient who suffer from fatigue need extra rest. When a doctor has diagnosed mono, you don't need to visit a doctor anymore, the symptoms go away on their own.
What can I do myself?
- Contact a doctor on a weekday when you suspect you have mono
- Drink cold fluids against the sore throat or suck on an ice cube or popsicle
- You can take Paracetamol or Tylenol to alleviate the pain; Always read the patient insert before you take medication!
- Take care of your immune-system by eating healthy eating and resting when you're tired
- Don't drink any alcohol, because the disease can also affect the liver