Perhaps one of the biggest old wives tales in medicine is that mono is spread through kissing. Known as the “kissing disease”, mono aka mononucleosis is your garden variety herpes virus. Another name of the virus is the Epstein-Barr virus or EBV. Whatever name you call it, mono can be found all over the world.
It is estimated that up to 95% of adults have been infected with this herpes virus and yet not everyone exhibits symptoms or suffers any ill effects. Many scientists believe that another infection or health problem which challenges the immune system could trigger the virus into activity.
Young children exposed to the virus do not suffer many ill effects at all; however, teenagers and adults who get mononucleosis often suffer stronger symptoms and take longer to recover. Mono often hits students and military who lead busy lives. Some of the symptoms you might expect include:
- Sore throat
- General malaise
- Swollen lymph glands
- Rarely spleen, liver, heart or nervous system issues
Diagnosis and Treatment of Mononucleosis
Only through a laboratory test can a doctor accurately diagnose mononucleosis because some of the symptoms could be attributed to other things. However, a total examination of the patient also plays into the mono theory which typically prompts the doctor to order the lab test.
The age of the patient as well as the presenting symptoms are taken into account. A simple blood test can be taken which may show a higher than normal white blood cell count which usually prompts the lab tests as well. On occasion, antibodies against the herpes virus are evaluated but this is often not done because lab tests can provide a more definitive answer.
Relief from Symptoms
Unfortunately, because mono is caused by a virus and not bacteria, there are no official drugs prescribed to treat it. However, the symptoms can often be treated with over the counter pain reliever as well as a doctor prescribed series of steroids which sometimes helps with the swollen lymph nodes.
The problem with mononucleosis is that it can take a few months to feel 100% better. Because there are occasional swollen spleen issues, people with mono should not engage in contact sports for as long as they have the illness or are recuperating.
In addition, many people go on to remain carriers of the virus which can be spread through saliva. This is where the kissing rumor got started. Of course, saliva can be present not only in kissing but also sharing a cup or fork or even a musical instrument. Therefore, it can be almost impossible to avoid the spread of mononucleosis. Luckily, not everyone who is exposed to the virus gets it.
There are rarely any long lasting side effects besides the carrier issue. Some people claim to have a chronic form of this Epstein-Barr virus although many doctors attribute the symptoms of this supposed chronic form to other illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome. Mononucleosis will likely always get labeled the kissing disease but there is no reason why you shouldnt keep on smooching.