When you were young, did you ever hear someone talk about the “Kissing Disease”? Eventually you probably learned that the Kissing Disease was actually a nickname for mononucleosis – or mono for short. If you’ve never had mono, you may not know a lot about the disease – such as what the symptoms are, how to treat it or if it’s life-threatening. So we’ve included the answers to all of those questions, and more, below.
When you were young, did you ever hear someone talk about the “Kissing Disease”? I remember thinking it was some mysterious disease that you could only get from kissing someone who was infected – kind of like a real-life version of “cooties.”
As I got older, I learned that the kissing disease was actually a nick-name for mononucleosis – or mono, for short. I still didn’t know much about it, and then my little sister got it and I got to see it up close and in person. And it was something I decided I never wanted to come down with. Needless to say, I kept my distance from her and didn’t give her any sisterly smooches.
If you’ve never had mono, or been around someone who has, you may not know a lot about the disease – such as what the symptoms are, how to treat it or if it’s life-threatening. So we’ve included the answers to all of those questions, and more, below.
Mononucleosis is an illness that often has a lot in common with influenza, but can last much longer, leaving its sufferers weak and tired for weeks or even months at a time.
Mono, short for mononucleosis, is an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. The virus is spread through mucus, tears, and most famously, saliva—leading to its notoriety as “the kissing disease.” Smooches aside, transmission is common from sharing food and beverages, using someone else’s toothbrush, and putting your mouth directly on the opening of a mouthwash bottle used by an infected person.
Once someone has been infected with the Epstein-Barr virus, they will likely experience symptoms within three to six weeks. When the virus has run its course, the symptoms will disappear anytime between a few days and, in severe cases, several months. The person who caught the virus will always be a carrier. However, the virus is only occasionally active and able to be transmitted to others, and the virus will not cause symptoms in the original carrier.
Symptoms of mono include an intensely sore throat, swollen glands, high fever, fatigue and physical weakness. In severe cases, the spleen can swell and burst, leading to intense pain in the left side of your abdomen.
What happens if you get mono?
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with mono, don’t share food, drinks or utensils with anyone. Ditto for toothbrushes and anything else that comes into contact with your mouth. And sorry, but it’s truly not a good idea to kiss anyone.
It’s also best to limit your physical activity. Avoid vigorous exercise, contact sports and heavy lifting. Many people with mono need bed rest, so take time away from your job or from school if your doctor deems it necessary. You may be tempted to think that you’re feeling better, but heed your doctor’s advice.
Tylenol and Advil can help relieve your symptoms, but consider supplementing with Echinacea, licorice root or astragalus to boost your immunity. And see your health care provider if your symptoms worsen.
So now you know!
Mono isn’t considered a “deadly” disease, but it can be an inconvenience in your life. Hopefully you’ll never have to deal with it – either yourself or with your children or grandchildren. But if you do, at least now you’ll be prepared!