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Mononucleosis in Teens FAQ

Can Mono Cause Complications?

People rarely die from mono. But some complications of mono can be life-threatening. One complication of mono is a ruptured spleen. Seek medical help right away if you have any of the following symptoms of a ruptured spleen:

  • Sharp pain in the upper left side of your belly near the ribs
  • Confusion
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed

Other rare complications are:

  • Brain infections such as encephalitis or meningitis
  • Liver swelling
  • Swelling of the testes in boys (orchitis)

If you have a weakened immune system, you are more likely to have severe mononucleosis. Certain diseases and medicines can weaken the immune system. This includes HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy for cancer treatment, and steroids.

Why Is Mono Called the Kissing Disease?

Mono most often spreads by kissing. That's because the virus that causes mono can be found in your mouth. It lives in saliva (spit) and mucus.

When you kiss someone, you are mixing your saliva with theirs. If you have mono and share saliva, you are sharing the virus, too. Kissing or having sex with someone with mono makes you more likely to get the infection.

How Else Can I Catch Mono?

Besides kissing, you may also catch mono if you:

  • Are near someone with mono who coughs or sneezes
  • Drink out of the same glass as someone with mono
  • Share a fork, spoon, or straw with someone who has mono

A good tip to remember is NEVER share eating utensils, water bottles, or drinking glasses. Following this rule can help lower your risk of getting mono.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Daniel Brennan, MD on December 21, 2013

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