All About Mononucleosis – The Kissing Disease

Feb 14, 2023 | Illness & Infections, Urgent Care

It’s Valentine’s Day. Everyone’s entitled to one good kiss.

Or are they?

Amid a pandemic, RSV surges, and cold and flu season – mononucleosis, commonly referred to as “the kissing disease” – hasn’t gotten a lot of press lately. This contagious virus is typically spread through saliva—which explains how it has earned its lip-smacking nickname.

Largely affecting teenagers and young adults, mono is certainly no joke. It’s important to know the specifics of this virus – and how you can protect yourself and your family from it.

About Mononucleosis – The Kissing Disease

As mentioned, mononucleosis, or “mono” for short, is an infectious disease that usually affects adolescents. It is most commonly caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which belongs to the herpes family of viruses.

Mono can be spread through saliva – hence its nickname “the kissing disease” – but it can also be spread through contact with infected blood or bodily fluids like tears or urine. So even if you’re not an avid smoocher, you could still contract mono by sharing food or drinks with someone who has the virus.

Mononucleosis infamously spreads quickly on college campuses. Not necessarily because of the kissing aspect, but because of the close quarters shared by dormitory students. College students may also tend to share water bottles, drinking glasses, and snacks, which is one of the biggest ways the virus jumps from person to person.

What are the Symptoms of Mono?

Mononucleosis can cause a wide range of symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose at times.

The most common symptom of mononucleosis is extreme fatigue; however, other symptoms may include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Rash (on trunk or arms and legs)
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
  • Muscle aches

Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to weeks. Fortunately, most people recover from mono completely within six weeks with no long-term effects.

How is Mono Treated?

While mononucleosis may be suspected based on symptoms, many doctors will order a complete blood count to look at lymphocytes. These white blood cells go through a specific change when the virus is present.

Unfortunately, there is no one specific treatment or cure for mononucleosis. Doctors will typically recommend plenty of rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen to treat fever and muscle pain.

Severe cases of the illness may require hospitalization so that intravenous fluids and antibiotics can be provided and complications from secondary bacterial infections such as pneumonia or strep throat can be prevented.

This Valentine’s Day, those feeling under the weather should take care to share only candy kisses and not germs. To prevent the spread of illness, parents should educate their teens about mononucleosis – the kissing disease – so they know the best ways to protect themselves and others from contracting this virus.

Questions? Quality First Urgent Care is standing by. Visit one of our convenient Howard County locations for any of your urgent care needs.