The Kissing Disease

Pucker up and get a handle on mononucleosis.

One of the most dreaded diseases of the teen years, mononucleosis (a.k.a. mono) can knock a young person out of school for days, weeks, or even months at a time. While nicknamed the “kissing disease,” mono is not a status symbol anyone wants. So how can you keep your teens from winding up with this mouth-watering disease?

Read on to get the inside scoop on mono to find out.

Mouth to Mouth

For the most part, mono is passed via close contact and saliva. As kissing results in close contact and the exchange of saliva, dating puts your kids at increased risk for mono. But that doesn’t mean you have to prohibit dating until they move out of the house. Because while it typically plagues teenagers, mono can affect kissers of any age or stage of life.

The most common cause of mono is the presence of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). However, other viruses can result in the passing of mono. So if you want to totally protect your teen from the virus, you’ll need to run a gamut of health tests on his or her potential boyfriend or girlfriend.

Lifelong Burden. Once someone is infected with mononucleosis, he or she carries the virus throughout life, putting others at risk for contracting the disease.

Sick and Tired

With mono, it’s common for the tonsils and the lymph nodes in the front and back of the neck to swell. Additionally, your child may suffer a skin rash or his or her spleen or liver may hurt when pushed. But these signs are often only recognized after other telltale symptoms have been around a while.

Some of the symptoms that should cause you to suspect mono include the following:

  • nosebleeds
  • general drowsiness and fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • coughing
  • headaches
  • feeling short of breath
  • sore throat
  • fever
  • chest pain
  • sensitivity to light

Get Over It

If mono is suspected, a couple medical tests are required for definitive diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is determined, mono treatment is rather unexciting. While it may be tempting to try out some newfangled treatments, the best-proven care for mono is to rest, drink lots of fluids, take over-the-counter medication for fever or pain relief, and gargle warm salt water to fight a sore throat.

In most cases, a mono-induced fever will go away within 10 days, while fatigue sticks around for a few weeks. Occasionally, however, mono can last for months at a time and has the potential to result in a ruptured spleen, bacterial infection of the throat, seizures, hepatitis, and other serious conditions. Hence why early diagnosis and treatment is critical.

Step Aside

Even better than lying around for a couple weeks while mono moves along is avoiding it altogether. Fortunately, avoiding mono is fairly simple. It just takes a little bit of awareness and willingness to follow common sense.

What can be done to sidestep mononucleosis? Never share drinks, food, or utensils with others – even if the person has never suffered from mono. Don’t snuggle with or kiss someone who has suffered from mono-like symptoms in the last few days. And wash your hands regularly, no matter if you’re hanging around the house by yourself or going out with friends.

When to Stop Waiting

In many cases of mononucleosis, patience is a virtue. Allowing the individual with mono to rest, while staying well hydrated, is usually all that is needed to overcome mono. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

If you or someone you love has mono and begins to experience abdominal pain, stiffness in the neck, a fever higher than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit for several days, arm or leg weakness, breathing problems, or debilitating headaches, go to the doctor immediately. Doing so may prevent further, more dangerous complications.

 

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