Health Care

Understanding Mononucleosis: Symptoms, Causes and Care

A Patient Speaks to Her Doctor About Symptoms She's Having

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Have your daily activities been causing you or your child to break a sweat and leave you stopping to catch your breath? Is this unusual fatigue accompanied by a bad sore throat? It might be mono.

Mononucleosis, more commonly known as "mono," is a contagious viral infection that mostly affects teens and young adults. Often referred to as “the kissing disease” due to its transmission through the saliva, mono can cause fatigue, a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes.

Mono can be a frustrating illness to manage because of its often-long-lasting symptoms, including the severe fatigue and body discomfort. And without proper care it can become serious. That’s why we’re here with important information to help you understand the symptoms, causes and how to best care for mono in yourself or others for the smoothest recovery possible.

Mononucleosis Symptoms

Recognizing the symptoms of mono is essential for early diagnosis and effective care. Common signs and symptoms include:


  • Persistent fatigue and lack of energy that may last for several weeks or even months
  • Rest is crucial to aid in recovery and prevent complications

Sore Throat:

  • A severe, persistent sore throat with swollen tonsils, sometimes accompanied by white patches or pus
  • Drinking plenty of fluids and using over-the-counter pain relievers can help manage throat pain

Swollen Lymph Nodes:

  • The lymph nodes in the neck, armpits and groin may become tender and enlarged
  • Applying warm compresses and taking over-the-counter pain relievers can provide relief

Other mono symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and/or a soft, swollen spleen.

Possible Mono Complications

Mono can be a long-lasting virus that can continue to affect you for weeks or even months. Be sure to reach out to your health care provider if your symptoms don’t improve within a week or two.

Complications of mono include temporary inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), jaundice (yellowing of your skin and whites of eyes) or an enlarged or ruptured spleen. Head to the ER right away if you experience sharp, sudden pain in your left upper abdomen.

Causes and Transmission

Mono is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and is spread through the saliva. Close contact with a person with mono, especially through kissing or sharing utensils or drinks, makes it more likely to get it. You can reduce the risk of getting mono by practicing good hygiene, such as not sharing personal items and regularly washing your hands if you’re around someone who has it.

Best Care for Mono

Supportive care is needed to manage mono, alleviate symptoms and facilitate a smooth recovery. Keep these tips in mind if you or someone you’re caring for has mono:

Get Plenty of Rest:

  • Fatigue is a common symptom of mono. Adequate rest and sleep are key for your body's healing
  • You can do light activities as you can, but avoid vigorous exercise or activities that may cause overexertion

Hydrate and Nourish:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, herbal tea and clear soups to stay hydrated
  • Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins to support your immune system

Relieve Discomfort:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen can help alleviate sore throat, fever and body aches
  • Gargling with warm saltwater may provide temporary relief for a sore throat

Be compassionate with yourself if you’re sick with mono and know that you’ll eventually heal. Your recovery will come quicker if you allow yourself to rest and reduce your stress levels as much as possible.

Find Expert Care and Support at AdventHealth

If you suspect you have mononucleosis and need care, AdventHealth is here to help at our many conveniently located urgent care centers and emergency rooms. Our experienced health care professionals offer comprehensive care and support, close to home.

Visit us here to learn more about our urgent care and emergency services for infectious diseases.

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