In my last article, ”Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Meningitis” we learned that Meningitis is, according to Health Line (https://www.healthline.com/health/how-contagious-meningitis#Overview1),
“a swelling of the membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord. It can be caused by fungi, parasites, or even injury. Most often, it’s caused by viral or bacterial infection. The swelling caused by meningitis generally triggers symptoms such as headache, fever and a stiff neck.”
There are several types of meningitis but Viral & Bacterial meningitis are the primary types. Viral meningitis is the most common type but bacterial is the most fatal if left untreated. Immediate medical attention is necessary especially if it is bacterial. There are many complications if it is not immediately treated including brain damage, seizures and death. There are some forms of bacterial meningitis that are preventable with vaccinations. Practicing good hygiene, staying healthy and washing your hands can help prevent getting Meningitis. Today I would like to move onto another childhood illness called Infectious Mononucleosis.
What Is Infectious Mononucleosis?
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) (https://www.cdc.gov/epstein-barr/about-mono.html), “Infectious mononucleosis, also called “mono,” is a contagious disease. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the most common cause of infectious mononucleosis, but other viruses can also cause this disease. It is common among teenagers and young adults, especially college students. At least one out of four teenagers and young adults who get infected with EBV will develop infectious mononucleosis.”
Epstein-Bar virus (EBV) is a very common virus. According to Kids Health (http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/mononucleosis.html) many people are exposed to it at some time, especially in childhood. Not all who are exposed to EBV will develop mono nor will they all become sick because of the exposure. Mono is sometimes referred to as “the kissing disease.” Once infected with EBV, these people will carry this virus for the rest of their lives.
How Is Infectious Mononucleosis Spread?
Mononucleosis is spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing or any contact with the saliva of an infected person according to Kids Health (http://m.kidshealth.org/en/parents/mono.html). It can even be spread by sharing a straw, a cup, eating utensil, a toothbrush, lip gloss, or lipstick with another person who is infected with EBV.
What Causes Infectious Mononucleosis?
In general, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is what causes mono because it is a common virus which is exposed to many people during childhood. But according to CDC there are other infections that can cause infectious mononucleosis:
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
- Hepatitis A, B, or C
What Are the Symptoms Of Infectious Mononucleosis?
Early symptoms of mononucleosis are similar to the flu according to Web MD (https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/symptoms-of-mononucleosis). They include:
- Severe fatigue
- Sore throat, which sometimes can be very severe
- Chills, followed by a fever
- Muscle aches
After a few days, the person with Mono may experience the following symptoms:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Jaundice (a yellow tinge to the skin and eyes)
- A measles-like skin rash anywhere on the face or body. Sometimes the rash develops suddenly after you’ve taken amoxicillin for a severe sore throat.
- Tiny red spots or bruise-like areas inside the mouth, especially on the roof of the mouth (palate)
- Soreness in the upper-left abdomen, from an enlarged spleen
When You Should Contact Your Doctor?
Also according to Web MD you should contact the doctor about mononucleosis if:
- You develop severe abdominal pain, which may be a sign of a ruptured spleen. Seek emergency medical treatment immediately.
- You have the symptoms of mono -- especially for longer than 10 days -- or you have a severe sore throat for more than a day or two. You need to see a doctor to rule out other illnesses, such as strep throat.
- You develop swollen lymph nodes all over your body, which can also be a sign of some other illnesses.
- You have severe, persistent headache and a stiff neck, which might be signs of meningitis.
- You develop a rash consisting of many tiny red spots (which doctors call petechiae), which could be a sign of a low platelet count or other serious illness such as meningitis.
How Is Mononucleosis Diagnosed?
Generally, mononucleosis is diagnosed based on the symptoms the patient displays during the doctor’s examination which can include fever, swollen lymph glands and a sore throat. According to the Cleveland Clinic (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/mononucleosis) the doctor may order blood tests with emphasis on the mono spot test which detects antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus. This test is not always accurate so he/she usually will also order a complete blood count to see if the lymphocyte count is higher than normal. In some cases “titers of antibodies against the viruses that cause mononucleosis may need to be done to confirm the diagnosis.”
How Is Mononucleosis Treated?
There is no specific treatment for infectious mononucleosis. According to Health Line (https://www.healthline.com/health/mononucleosis#treatment6) the doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid to reduce throat & tonsil swelling. Symptoms tend to resolve on their own in one to two months. Health Line also explained that treatment generally is aimed at easing the symptoms of mononucleosis. Approaches can include over-the-counter medicines to reduce fever and other methods to calm a sore throat using techniques like gargling with salt water. Other recommended home treatment to ease symptoms are:
- Getting a lot of rest
- Staying hydrated, ideally by drinking water
- Eating warm chicken soup
- Using OTC pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol)
It is highly recommended that if your symptoms should get worse or you experience intense abdominal pain, you should contact your doctor immediately!
Complications of Mononucleosis?
Per Health Line most cases of mono is not usually serious. But in some cases, those who have mono may get secondary infections such as strep throat, tonsillitis, or sinus infections. The Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mononucleosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350328) stated that complications of mononucleosis may sometimes be more serious than the disease itself. The following complications can occur:
- Enlarged spleen: Mononucleosis may cause enlargement of the spleen. In extreme cases, your spleen may rupture, causing sharp, sudden pain in the left side of your upper abdomen. If such pain occurs, seek medical attention immediately — you may need surgery.
- Liver Issues: Hepatitis where you may experience mild liver inflammation and/or jaundice where a yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice) can occur occasionally.
Mayo Clinic also listed less common complications:
- Anemia — a decrease in red blood cells and in hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein in red blood cells
- Thrombocytopenia — low count of platelets, which are blood cells involved in clotting
- Heart problems — an inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis)
- Complications involving the nervous system — meningitis, encephalitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Swollen tonsils — which can block breathing
The Epstein-Barr virus can cause very serious illness in those who have impaired immune systems, such as HIV/AIDS & people on drugs that suppress immunity after an organ transplant.
Who Is At Risk For Mononucleosis?
The following groups have a greater risk for getting mononucleosis according to Health Line:
- Young people between the ages of 15 and 30
- Medical interns
- People who take medications that suppress the immune system
Any person who regularly comes into close contact with a large group of people is at a higher risk for mono.
How to Prevent Mononucleosis?
According to Medicine Net (https://www.medicinenet.com/infectious_mononucleosis/article.htm) the best ways to prevent mono is to avoid close personal contact with infected individuals and to use good personal hygienic practices. Unfortunately “since periodic reactivations of the virus infection seem to occur in healthy individuals and because many infected people who may transmit the virus to others will not have symptoms of the condition, prevention is extremely difficult. In fact, these individuals without symptoms are believed to be the primary source of transmission of the virus. The fact that up to 95% of adults have antibodies to EBV suggests that prevention of the infection is difficult if not impossible.”
What Is the Outlook For Mononucleosis?
Medical News Today (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/311932.php) stated that mono symptoms may last for 2 to 4 months but “most people will recover without any long-term problems. Managing symptoms with self-care and rest is often the best way to deal with mono.”
In conclusion we learned that, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) (https://www.cdc.gov/epstein-barr/about-mono.html), “Infectious mononucleosis, also called “mono,” is a contagious disease. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the most common cause of infectious mononucleosis, but other viruses can also cause this disease. It is common among teenagers and young adults, especially college students. At least one out of four teenagers and young adults who get infected with EBV will develop infectious mononucleosis.”
Symptoms of mononucleosis are similar to the flu: Severe fatigue, headache, sore throat, which sometimes can be very severe, chills, followed by a fever, muscle aches. Other symptoms include: Swollen lymph nodes, jaundice, a measles-like skin rash anywhere on the face or body, severe sore throat, tiny red spots or bruise-like areas inside the mouth, especially on the roof of the mouth (palate), soreness in the upper-left abdomen, from an enlarged spleen.Mono symptoms may last for 2 to 4 months but “most people will recover without any long-term problems.
I hope you learned something from this article about Infectious Mononucleosis. There are many resources on the internet if you need more specific information. I will continue this series with another childhood disease post. I hope you will continue to join me in this quest to learn about these illnesses that children usually encounter when they are young. Thank-you for reading my article on ”Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Infectious Mononucleosis”. If you would like to follow me, please check HERE
These are my previous articles if you are interested in reading them:
Teachers & Parents Beware of Impetigo: I Gave It To My Teacher
Childhood Diseases –On a Mission to Learn: Chicken Pox
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Strep Throat
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Fifth Disease
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Measles
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Mumps
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Croup
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Asthma
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Tetanus
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Ear Infections
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Reye’s Syndrome
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Kawasaki Disease
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Ringworm
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Lyme Disease
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Rotavirus Infection
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Hepatitis A
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Scarlet Fever
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Respiratory Syncytial Virus
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Meningitis