Mononucleosis (Mono)

Mononucleosis, also known as mono, is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Mono is best known for causing swollen glands and tiredness, but it can cause other symptoms as well. Most children with mono recover without any problems. But the illness can take a long time to go away. In some cases, mono can cause problems with the liver, spleen, or heart. So it is important to diagnose mono and to watch your child carefully.

How mono is spread

Mono can be easily transmitted from an infected person's saliva by:

  • Drinking and eating after them

  • Sharing a straw, cup, toothbrushes, and eating utensils

  • Kissing and close contact

  • Handling toys with children drool

Symptoms of mono

Mother's hand on sleeping girl's head.

In children, common symptoms include:

  • Tiredness, weakness

  • Fever

  • Sore throat

  • Tender or swollen lymph nodes in the neck or armpits

  • Swollen tonsils

  • Rash

  • Sore muscles or stiffness

  • Headache

  • Loss of appetite, nausea

  • Dull pain in the stomach area

  • Enlarged liver and spleen

  • Headaches

  • Puffy eyes

  • Sensitivity to light

Treating mono

Because it is a viral infection, antibiotics won’t cure mono. Your child's healthcare provider may prescribe medicines to help ease your child's pain or discomfort. The best treatment for mono is rest. A child with mono should also drink lots of fluids. To help your child feel better and recover sooner:

  • Make sure your child gets enough rest.

  • Provide plenty of fluids, such as water or apple juice.

  • The spleen may become enlarged with mono. Your child may need to avoid contact sports, and heavy lifting for a while in order to prevent injury to the spleen. Discuss this with your child's healthcare provider.

  • Treat fever, sore throat, headache, or aching muscles with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Never give your child aspirin. Your child's healthcare provider or nurse can help you with the correct dose.

Symptoms usually last for a few weeks, but can sometimes last for 1 to 2 months or longer. Even after symptoms go away, your child may be tired or weak for some time.

Preventing the spread of mono

While you’re caring for a child with mono:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap often, especially before and after tending to your sick child.

  • Monitor your own health and that of other family members.

  • Limit a sick child’s contact with other children.

  • Clean dishes and eating utensils used by a sick child separately in very hot, soapy water. Or run them through the dishwasher.

When to seek medical care

Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if your otherwise healthy child:

  • Is younger than 3 months and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Is younger than 2 years old and has a fever that lasts more than 24 hours

  • Is 2 years old or older and the fever continues for 3 days

  • Has repeated fevers above 104°F (40°C) at any age

  • Has had a seizure caused by the fever

  • Experiences difficult or rapid breathing

  • Can’t be soothed or shows signs of irritability or restlessness

  • Seems unusually drowsy, listless, or unresponsive

  • Has trouble eating, drinking, or swallowing

  • Stops breathing, even for an instant

  • Shows signs of severe chest, neck, or belly pain

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© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.