What are the Symptoms of Mononucleosis?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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Mononucleosis or mono is an infection with the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and most people get this illness at one time or another, usually in childhood or in adolescence. Symptoms, especially in children under the teen years, may be fairly mild and may look like cases of other flus or viruses. Lots of people never get diagnosed with this illness, but bloodwork studies on middle-aged adults show that most people have had it, even if they can’t recollect it. Variation of severity in symptoms of mononucleosis and in expression of the illness should be taken into account. Some people do get more severe cases, and others get well quickly and never were diagnosed.

The first symptoms of mononucleosis are likely to appear one to two months after a person has been exposed, or in even less time in younger kids. These often include extreme tiredness or a sense that energy has simply left the body. Some people also experience chills and find food unappealing.


After a day or two of these sensations, people may note emergence of a fever and a very sore throat. Sore throat is definitely one of the key symptoms of mononucleosis, along with the tiredness. It may be extremely painful to swallow, which can make eating and drinking difficult. It can hurt to talk and the lymph nodes in the neck can feel swollen, which may exacerbate sore throat sensation. People may have a white colored coating in the back of the throat and on the tonsils too.

Other symptoms of mononucleosis can be variable. Some people develop a flat red rash on parts of the skin, which may especially be located near the throat and jaw line. Mono can cause the spleen to enlarge, and some people may feel this as severe stomach pain, especially when moving. Fever can increase after the first few days of infection, and might be measured anywhere between 101-104 degrees F (38.33-40 degrees C). Fever is not present in all people.

A doctor should typically confirm mono diagnosis, especially for adolescents and adults who are likely to have the most severe cases. The symptoms of mono that doctors look for include those just mentioned. Doctors also perform bloodwork, which can detect presence of EBV antibodies or which look at the way certain white blood cells (lymphocytes) are behaving, in order to confirm diagnosis.

There is not that much that can be done about mono except to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. Popsicles or warm drinks can be helpful for those having trouble swallowing. Sometimes there are complications to mono. The symptoms of mononucleosis might include development of strep throat or swelling of the liver.

Even though many people recover in a few weeks, some continue to feel tired and easily exhausted for several months after symptoms first appeared, which is not that uncommon in teens and adults. Doing too much too soon can make some of the early symptoms reemerge, especially sore throat and fatigue. Since mono relapses can occur, those recovering from this illness should go slowly in resuming regular activities and pay attention to the body if it begins to show any signs of relapse.


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