How do you know if your teen has mono?

April 12, 2019 Providence Health Team

Mono is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV).

Because it can be spread through saliva, it is often referred to as the “kissing disease”.

Laboratory blood tests can confirm a mono diagnosis.

Is your teen showing signs of great fatigue, high fevers, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes and headaches and body aches? Perhaps it seems like the flu, but if symptoms don’t improve within 1-2 weeks, it’s probably time for a visit to the doctor. Infectious mononucleosis (mono) might be the cause of your teen’s troubles. Here’s what you need to know.

What is mono?

Infectious mononucleosis is commonly known as “mono”. It is also sometimes referred to as the “kissing disease” because it is primarily spread through saliva. Although most common among teenagers and young adults, individuals of any age can get it. Mono is typically caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). In most cases, symptoms appear about four to six weeks after infection. At least 25% of teens infected with EBV develop mono.

Symptoms include:

•extreme fatigue


•sore throat

•head and body aches

•swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits

•swollen liver or spleen or both


Most individuals improve in two to four weeks, though associated fatigue can linger for months. Serious problems are rare.

How is mono diagnosed and treated?

Mono can sometimes be diagnosed by symptoms alone, but because it can mimic other diseases, laboratory work is often done to confirm the diagnosis. Blood work can test for: abnormal white blood cells, evidence of heterophile antibodies (Monospot test), or actual EPV antibodies.

There are no specific treatments available for mono. Antibiotics are not effective against it or other viral infections.

To relieve symptoms:

•Drink fluids to stay hydrated

•Get plenty of rest

•Take age-appropriate over-the-counter medications as directed for pain and fever

Because mono can lead to risk of a ruptured spleen, contact sports should be avoided until after full recovery.

How can my teen avoid mono?

Mono is not as contagious as the common cold or flu. EPV and other viruses that lead to mono can be spread through saliva, blood, or semen.

There is no vaccine to protect against mono, but you can try to avoid it by not kissing, sharing food or drinks, or using personal items — such as a toothbrush — from anyone infected. The good news is that most people only have it once in their lifetimes.

Want your teen to be tested for mono? Make an appointment online for fast care at a Providence Express Care clinic:

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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