Commonly asked questions about mononucleosis

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Mononucleosis, or better known as mono, is common and highly contagious. It’s also sometimes called “the kissing disease,” which leaves some people with a few questions.

Dr. Katy Stordahl with East Tennessee Children’s Hospital says you can get mono from a quick kiss or peck on the lips, because the Epstein-Barr virus is carried in saliva. It can be spread by sharing a toothbrush, drinking straw, eating utensil or even lip gloss.

If you had mono years ago, it stays in your body for life. That doesn’t mean you’re always contagious, but the virus can surface from time to time and risk infecting someone else. You can be contagious from the time you first become infected, even though symptoms can take four to seven weeks to show up. You can also spread it for many months after the symptoms are gone.

Symptoms include extreme tiredness, fever, muscle aches and headache, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes.

Dr. Stordahl says it’s important to stay out of sports if you have mono because it can be serious. An enlarged spleen makes traumatic rupture of the spleen a possible complication. Swelling of the throat and tonsils can also lead to airway obstruction. Mono sometimes requires hospitalization.

Antibiotics do not work on mono. It has to run its course, and rest is necessary to recover. You can treat symptoms of fever with over the counter medication. Staying hydrated is key. You may feel tired for weeks after having mono

It’s hard to prevent mono from spreading, but your best defense is frequent hand washing and not sharing anything someone has put their mouth on like drinks and utensils. Limiting kissing can help too.

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