Care of Mononucleosis


Mononucleosis, also called "mono" is an infectious viral illness common among young adults and college students. The virus that causes mononucleosis is transmitted by mucus or saliva, either through direct contact or by airborne droplets.


The usual symptoms of mononucleosis are fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, extreme fatigue, and general discomfort. The spleen may be enlarged. In many cases, a faint body rash occurs. Most cases of mononucleosis are undetectable except by blood test. Severe cases do occur, but the more typical case of mononucleosis last only 10 to 28 days. Lingering weakness may last a few weeks or several months after the other symptoms subside. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible.


No medication can cure mononucleosis; antibiotics have no effect on uncomplicated cases. Nonprescription drugs such as aspirin or aspirin substitutes, throat lozenges, and saline gargles are often suggested to relieve the symptoms of sore throat and fever. Rest and extra sleep are advisable, particularly when a fever is present. Increased liquids and a well-balanced diet are also encouraged. Strenuous physical activity, particularly contact sports, should be avoided, as should alcoholic beverages which put stress on the liver and spleen. Following these self-care suggestions, most patients recover fully from mononucleosis within 2-3 weeks. You can return to classed after your fever is gone.


Inflammation of the liver occurs in most cases of mononucleosis, but is generally mild and brief, rarely causing permanent damage. Avoid alcohol to prevent the chance of more severe inflammation.

In some cases of mononucleosis, the spleen, a blood-filtering organ in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen, may become swollen and weakened. Rarely, the spleen may rupture, either spontaneously or as the result of sudden pressure on the abdomen. Rupture of the spleen is indicated by severe abdominal pain and requires prompt professional medical intervention. Although very rare, this complication is quite serious and may be life threatening. You should avoid strenuous activity and any sports, etc. that may cause trauma to the abdomen.


Mononucleosis is probably no more contagious than any other viral disease, such as a cold or flu. However, the contagious state of the disease probably begins one to two weeks before symptoms appear, so you may unknowingly infect or be infected by another person. As with any contagious disease, avoid close physical contact with others while you are sick, and cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.

Medical Treatment/More Information

If you suspect mononucleosis, you can request a rapid blood test and an examination at the Student Health Center. The diagnostic blood test for mononucleosis usually does not indicate the disease until the second week of illness. If you need medical attention during your illness, the Student Health Center can assist you.