Since mono is spread in saliva, avoid eating or drinking from the same glasses, dishes, or utensils of friends or strangers. Do not share personal items or smoking products (but we advise everyone not to smoke). Wash hands regularly, especially before eating. Avoid sick people. There is no medication or vaccine to prevent mono.
Mono can usually be diagnosed by an IU Health Center medical provider with an examination and a rapid blood test in the IU Health Center Laboratory. Occasionally, the test can be negative early in the illness, even if symptoms are suspicious for mono, and a follow up test several days to a week later may be required to confirm the diagnosis of mono. A small percentage of people with mono continue to test negative.
Mono is a virus, so there is no cure for it. Acute symptoms of mono can last 7–14 days or longer and improvement is gradual. Antiviral and antibiotic medications do not help. Antibiotics are only used to treat bacterial infections. Taking some antibiotics with mono can cause a rash.
Treatment consists of self-care and these things can help for feeling better:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.) for fever or pain. Taking more acetaminophen (Tylenol) than recommended can cause liver damage. Thus it is important to closely follow the dosing instructions or the health care provider’s instructions to safely take this medication. Check all medications for acetaminophen because it is often combined with other ingredients in multi-symptom medications.
- Throat lozenges or sprays containing benzocaine (such as Cepacol) may provide temporary relief from throat pain.
- Gargle, then spit out, warm salt water for a sore throat (use 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water).
- Feeling ill often causes a loss of appetite. This is normal, and usually improves as the infection improves. It is important, even if no appetite, to drink an adequate amount of fluids. The urine will be a pale yellow when drinking enough fluids.
In addition to self-care, it is important to avoid strenuous activity and abstain from alcohol:
Avoid Strenuous Activity
People with mono should avoid sports, lifting, exercising, falls, and any potential injury to the abdomen for about 4 weeks. That is because mono affects the spleen to some extent in about 50% to 60% of people with mono. An enlarged spleen is more vulnerable to rupture either spontaneously or from trauma to the abdomen. A ruptured spleen is a medical emergency. Anyone with mono should get medical clearance before resuming physical activities.
Abstain From Alcohol
Mononucleosis often inflames the liver and alcohol can make this inflammation worse. Mono patients should not use alcohol while they are ill or until a provider tells them it is safe.
Even the common symptoms of mono are frequently severe enough to warrant prescription medication for pain relief during the acute phase. If any concerns regarding the possibility of mono or complications from mono, call or schedule an appointment with an IU Health Center medical provider.