Mononucleosis mainly affects adolescents and young people. It is transmitted mainly through saliva, which is why it is also called “kissing disease” or “student disease”. This is an unpleasant and long-term disease, but in most cases it gradually passes without any consequences. Find out how infectious mononucleosis differs from a common sore throat or viral disease, what are the current trends in treatment and what you can do yourself for a successful recovery.
What is infectious mononucleosis?
Infectious mononucleosis is a viral disease, the most common cause of which is the EB virus (EBV), that is, the Epstein and Barr viruses. Since this is a viral disease, antibiotics do not act on it (although, as you will learn below, they can also come to the fore). 95% of adults have antibodies to EBV, which means they have been infected in the past. The initial infection usually occurs in childhood and often proceeds completely unnoticed or in the form of a common virus. Then the virus is reactivated from time to time, usually with another disease, and it is at this time that a person becomes a source of infection for those who do not have antibodies. EBV is transmitted mainly through saliva – and it doesn’t have to be just a kiss, the infection can also be transmitted by sharing various necessities (glasses, water bottles, cutlery, lipstick or food…)
Unfortunately, there is no vaccination against EBV. In the past, EBV infection has also been associated with the development of chronic fatigue syndrome, but this link has not been confirmed.
Who most often suffers from infectious mononucleosis?
Infectious mononucleosis is a disease mainly of adolescents and young people aged 15-24 years. This is rare in the elderly, as well as in children under one year old who are protected by maternal antibodies. It should be noted that EBV is not as contagious as, for example, a cold, and the probability that EBV infection will manifest itself in the form of infectious mononucleosis is about 50%.
What are the symptoms of thinking about infectious mononucleosis?
Infectious mononucleosis has many symptoms, they may not manifest all at once. The incubation period of infectious mononucleosis is from 4 to 6 weeks, and the first symptoms are usually severe fatigue, weakness, exhaustion and even appetite. There is also fever, chills and severe sore throat with difficulty swallowing, the handles are noticeably enlarged and covered with plaque. Other symptoms that patients subjectively experience are headaches, noticeably enlarged and painful nodules on the neck and armpits, rash, small spots (petechiae) on the soft palate and abdominal pain. Acute symptoms usually disappear within 2-3 weeks, other symptoms, such as severe fatigue or enlarged nodes, persist even longer, and patients feel completely healthy, for example, after 2-3 months.
Can infectious mononucleosis be complicated?
Infectious mononucleosis can sometimes be complicated, but this is true for all diseases. With mononucleosis, the liver and spleen are often enlarged, and one of the most serious complications is a rupture of the spleen, which is manifested by very severe pain in the left side of the abdomen. This is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. With infectious mononucleosis, mild inflammation of the liver may also occur, manifested by jaundice (yellowing of the skin and proteins). Another complication may be such a strong swelling of the tonsils, which makes it impossible to breathe. The risk of complications is higher in people with weakened immune systems, but even healthy people should not underestimate the disease and indulge in rest and long enough for a full recovery.
How is infectious mononucleosis treated?
Treatment of infectious mononucleosis is symptomatic, that is, aimed at relieving symptoms. Antiviral drugs are not prescribed. Medications for fever and pain are used, or medications and other medications for sore throat (rinses, lozenges). Medications containing acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) should not be used in children and adolescents under 15 years of age to reduce fever and relieve pain.
To treat a secondary bacterial infection that can develop during the disease (inflammation of the pharynx and tonsils, inflammation of the paranasal sinuses), the doctor prescribes antibiotics. You can take vitamin supplements to help with recovery. Since viral mononucleosis is a burden on the liver, you can talk to your doctor about taking medications to protect the liver (hepatoprotectors) or supplements that support normal liver function.
Additional precautions for infectious mononucleosis
In addition to medications and other pharmaceutical products, sleep, plenty of fluids and a varied, balanced diet that provides enough energy for healing are important for the treatment of mononucleosis. A few months of the strict low-fat diet recommended earlier is now considered an inappropriate and outdated method. On the other hand, it is not necessary to load the liver, for example, with burnt fats, and alcohol consumption is also completely impractical. Athletes should know that after recovery, it is necessary to not fully train for some time and gradually increase the load – a specific procedure will be recommended by the attending physician.