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Teen Health

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Mononucleosis in Teens FAQ

Heard about a friend who's got mono? Here are some quick facts about mononucleosis.

  • It's an infection caused by a virus (the Epstein-Barr virus or EBV).
  • Mono is very common in teens.
  • Mononucleosis is contagious! If you've got mono, you can spread it to others.

How Do I Know if I've Got Mono?

Sometimes you can have mono and not even know it. Young kids usually have pretty mild symptoms. But teens can have more severe symptoms.

Symptoms of mono include:

  • Chills
  • Feeling really tired and weak
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Puffy eyelids
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands in your neck
  • Swollen spleen under the left side of your ribs

Symptoms usually occur about four to six weeks after you come in contact with the virus.

What Happens When I Visit the Doctor?

Your doctor will examine you and check your neck for lumps or bumps. You will be asked questions about your symptoms. Make sure to tell the doctor about all your symptoms.

Your doctor may do some blood tests, including:

  • A mono spot, which confirms that you've got mono. EBV titers and hepatic function tests can also be clues.
  • A CBC (complete blood count) will show if you have an increase in white blood cells. A rise in your white blood cell count can be a sign of infection. (not necessarily looking for elevated white count.  Sometimes white count can be suppressed.  Looking for atypical lymphocytes)



How Is Mono Treated?

There is no cure for mono. The virus eventually goes away, but it can take a few weeks.  

Antibiotics are NOT used to treat mono. That's because mono is caused by a virus, and antibiotics do not kill viruses.

Once in a while, the doctor may prescribe drugs called steroids. This medicine is usually taken for about five days. It can help control swelling in the throat and tonsils.

Your doctor or nurse will recommend the following steps to make you feel better:

  • Get plenty of rest. Sleep helps your body fight the infection.
  • Avoid contact sports as well as other activities until your doctor says it's OK. This helps protect your spleen. A hit or fall could make it break open, or rupture. A ruptured spleen causes internal bleeding, which is a life-threatening condition.
  • Drink a lot of fluids. If your body does not have enough water, you can become dehydrated. Dehydration can make you feel worse.
  • Rinse your mouth or gargle with salt water. This can help soothe a sore throat. You can also try sucking on hard candy or eating a Popsicle.
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for aches and pains. Do NOT take aspirin because of the risk of Reye syndrome, a rare but serious condition that typically affects people ages 4 to 14 who are recovering from chickenpox or another viral illness.

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