How do you get mono? Mono or infectious mononucleosis is also sometimes referred to as “the kissing disease” and is an infection due to the Epstein-Barr virus, abbreviated as EBV. This virus is incredibly common and many are exposed to it during childhood.
Despite this, not everyone exposed to the EBV will develop mono. People can be exposed to and even infected with the virus without ever becoming sick. Those who develop an EBV infection have the virus forever, whether or not they show any symptoms of mono. Most people who do show mono symptoms possibly will not have symptoms again in the future.
How Do You Get Mono?
EBV is spread by contacting infected fluids. EBV grows and lives in the throat and nose and any fluid that originates from these areas may be infected with it, including mucus, tears, and saliva.
People cannot spread EBV via casual contact so it is possible to share a home or apartment with someone that has mono without being infected with this virus. Those who have weakened immune systems tend to have a higher risk of developing mono. The most common method of mono being transmitted is via saliva as the B lymphocytes in the throat and mouth become infected.
If we want to know "how do you get mono", you should understand how mono is transmitted. It is possible to contact fluids infected with EBV and develop mono in the following ways:
1. Transmission by Intimate Contact
How do you get mono? A romantic French kiss might be the answer. The nickname “the kissing disease” developed because mono is frequently transmitted by kissing. Despite this, you will not spread EBV by simply having a brief kiss. Instead, it will spread if saliva transfers from the mouth of an infected person into someone else’s mouth. Similarly, you may develop EBV by sharing a toothbrush, eating utensils, a drinking glass, food, lip balm, lipstick, or lip gloss with someone who is infected due to the transfer of saliva. Experts think mono may also be transmitted sexually.
2. Transmission by Coughing or Sneezing
Sometimes a person who has mono will pass it on by sneezing or coughing, a process by which small droplets containing infected mucus and/or saliva enter the air before the air is inhaled by other people.
3. Transmission by Blood
Although rare, it is also possible to develop an infection after a blood transfusion from someone with EBV.
Most people will be exposed to EBV as children, leading to an immunity to it. Keep in mind that the majority of people who have EBV won’t develop mononucleosis. Mono has an incubation of 4 to 8 weeks, which is the time between the initial viral infection and when the first symptoms appear. During the infection, the period in which someone is contagious will be at least several weeks, including after symptoms disappear.
How Do You Prevent Mono?
As mono is spread via saliva, those who are infected should prevent it from spreading by not sharing utensils, glasses, dishes, food or intimate contact until a few days after the fever has gone. At present, there is no vaccine for EBV.
How Do You Know If You Have Mono?
Typically, the first symptoms will include:
- Unusual fatigue (like feeling a need to sleep between 12 and 16 hours daily)
- Muscle aches
Shortly after, these symptoms will appear:
- Enlarged spleen (or one that is soft and swollen)
- Abdominal pain
- A red rash, typically on the chest. This increases in likelihood for those who have recently taken amoxicillin or ampicillin, both of which are antibiotics
- Vomiting and nausea (sometimes)
- Loss of appetite
- Slight weight loss
- Joint aches
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Sore throat
- General feeling of being unwell
- Swollen tonsils
Although the typical incubation period for mono is between 4 and 8 weeks, sometimes young children experience a shorter incubation period. Typically symptoms like sore throat and fever will diminish within several weeks, but others will last longer and those include swollen spleen, enlarged lymph nodes, and fatigue.
When to See a Doctor
If you get plenty of rest and follow a healthy diet without seeing an improvement within 2 weeks, or if the symptoms come back after a period, you should visit your doctor.
What Can You Do If You Get Mono?
Most of the time, you can treat mono via self care and most people with the disease will recover without any issue. In addition to getting enough bed rest, you can ease symptoms in the following ways:
1. Home Remedies
- Drink enough fruit juice and water. Fluids will relieve sore throat and fever while preventing dehydration.
- Gargle using salt water. Gargling ½ teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water a few times a day will help the sore throat.
- Avoid heavy lifting and contact sports. Avoiding these activities helps you reduce the risk of rupturing the spleen as that could lead to severe bleeding. Your doctor will tell you when it is safe to exercise again.
You will not find a specific therapy for infectious mononucleosis as antibiotics don’t work for this type of viral infection.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
Opt for ibuprofen and acetaminophen as needed. Only use them for pain or fever relief as they don’t have antiviral properties. Always be careful if giving children or teenagers aspirin. Aspirin is safe to use in those over 2 years old, but children and teenagers who are recovering from flu-like symptoms or chickenpox should never take it due to its potential link to Reye’s syndrome.
Sometimes strep infections, sinus infections, or tonsillitis will accompany mono. In these cases, your doctor may recommend antibioticsto treat the secondary bacterial infections.
Those who have mono should not take penicillin derivatives as it may lead to a rash. This rash doesn’t indicate an allergy. If you need antibiotics, there are other options to treat related infections that will not increase the risk of a rash.
Corticosteroids, like prednisone, are sometimes prescribed to ease symptoms, such as swollen throat or tonsils.