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Infectious Mononucleosis: Brief Version

What is mononucleosis?

Mononucleosis (mono) is a sickness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. The virus is spread through saliva from coughing, sneezing, and kissing.

Your child will probably have:

  • A very bad sore throat with positive blood test for mono
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, and groin
  • Fever for 7 to 14 days
  • More sleepiness
  • Enlarged spleen (in 50% of children)

Most children have symptoms for a week. Those with very bad symptoms usually feel completely well in 2 to 4 weeks.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Give fever and pain medicines. No specific medicine will cure mono. Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the pain of swollen lymph nodes and fever. Do not give aspirin.
  • Drink fluids. Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids. Cold drinks, and milk shakes are especially good. Your child is getting enough to drink if he pees (urinates) at least 3 times a day. The urine should not be darker than normal.
  • Treat the sore throat. Give soft foods. Children over age 1 can sip warm chicken broth. Children over age 4 can suck on hard candy.
  • Let your child rest. Your child can select how much rest he or she needs.
  • Be careful not to injure your child's enlarged spleen. All children with mono should avoid contact sports for at least 4 weeks. Your child should avoid heavy lifting and getting constipated.
  • Don't spread mono. Use separate drinking glasses and utensils and avoid kissing.

Call your child's doctor right away if:

  • Breathing becomes difficult or noisy.
  • Abdominal pain occurs (especially high on your child's left side).
  • Signs of dehydration occur.
  • Your child starts acting very sick.

Call your child's doctor in 24 hours if:

  • Your child isn't drinking enough fluids.
  • Sinus or ear pain occurs.
  • Your child isn't back to school by 2 weeks.
  • Any symptoms remain after 4 weeks.
  • You have other questions or concerns.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2006-02-24
Last reviewed: 2012-05-14
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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