Stressing about final exams freshman year, senior Savannah Gaulin suffered from a sore throat and severe fatigue, instead of completing review guides. Thinking she had strep throat, Gaulin took a trip to the doctors prepared for antibiotics, but instead learned she developed mono.
Mononucleosis, often referred to as “mono,” is a common viral illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Mono can be spread through kissing; sharing things such as drinks, eating utensils,etc.; or anything else that involves contact through saliva, mucus or even tears, according to Dr. Ronald Stewart.
Common symptoms of mono include: a sore throat, a high fever, enlarged neck glands, extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches, a headache, nausea and abdominal pain, according to Dr. Vincent Iannelli.
“I realized I was getting sick when my throat started hurting really bad and I was always tired,” Gaulin said. “After I found out I had mono, I didn’t end up missing any school because of final exams, which really sucked because I was so tired and didn’t study a lot.”
When teens develop mono it often goes unnoticed, because their symptoms are mild. About 90 percent of people over 35 have been infected with mono, most commonly during early childhood, and have antibodies to the virus in their blood that prevent them from showing any symptoms, according to Iannelli.
In most cases of mono, no specific treatment is necessary. The illness is usually self-limited and passes, much the way other common viral illnesses resolve. Getting plenty of rest, gargling with salt water and taking acetaminophen, such as Tylenol or ibuprofen will help, according to Stewart.
“The dangerous part about mono is that your spleen gets enlarged,” Medical Health teacher Phil Crum said. “The membrane around the spleen is really thin and if you get physically hit, it can rupture which can be potentially life threatening.”
According to Iannelli, avoiding sharing drinks, straws, food, etc.; staying healthy overall; and getting a nutritional diet and adequate sleep are ways to prevent developing mono.
“Mono is a severe illness that spreads fairly quickly,” Stewart said. “Although it is commonly known as the ‘kissing disease,’ watch out for more than just kissing and avoid sharing anything that could spread saliva.”