Mononucleosis (mono) is a common viral illness that can leave you feeling tired and weak for weeks or months. Mono goes away on its own, but lots of rest and good self-care can help you feel better, and recover more quickly.

The Epstein-Barr virus causes mono, which is a member of the herpes virus family. Epstein-Barr is one of the most common types of viruses. Mono is not usually a serious illness. Most people only tend to get it once because their body develops antibodies against the virus. It is often referred to as the “kissing disease,” since it can be spread through saliva exchange during kissing.

The virus has an incubation period of four to eight weeks. This means that you may not show signs or symptoms until four to eight weeks after you contract the illness.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Sore throat, perhaps a strep throat that doesn’t get better with antibiotics
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck and armpits
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Headache
  • Skin rash
  • Loss of appetite
  • Soft, swollen spleen
  • Night sweats

Fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and an enlarged spleen tend to be the symptoms that last the longest for this illness.

What Should I Do?

Mono can be spread through contact with saliva, mucus from the nose and throat, and sometimes tears. Avoid sharing glasses, utensils, chapstick, or toothbrushes with others in order to reduce your risk of contracting this illness. There is no vaccine to prevent against mononucleosis.

Call the Student Health Center if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above. A physician can give you a blood test to determine if you have mono.

Self-care can usually help lessen the symptoms of mono:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Gargle with salt water (if you have a sore throat)
  • Avoid contact sports and heavy lifting
  • Take ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Student Health Center
Darnall Hall Ground Floor
(202) 687-2200