Mononucleosis, often called "mono" for short, is a common viral infection that can affect people of all ages, including college students. Connecticut Children's Andrew Carlson, MD, Medical Director of Primary Care, explores what “Mono” is, its symptoms, how it spreads, and how to prevent and manage it.

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What is mononucleosis?

Mononucleosis is typically caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a member of the herpesvirus family. It causes symptoms like extreme fatigue, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes, which can last for several weeks.   

Symptoms of mono

  • Fatigue: College students are no strangers to feeling tired, but the fatigue caused by mono is often extreme and doesn't improve with rest.  
  • Sore Throat: A severe sore throat is a common symptom of mono and can make it difficult to swallow.  
  • Fever: A mild to high fever is typical and can last for a week or longer.  
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes: Mono can cause swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits.  
  • Enlarged Spleen: In some cases, the spleen can enlarge, leading to discomfort in the upper left abdomen.  
  • Rash: A rash may develop, especially if the patient takes antibiotics like amoxicillin.  

How does mono spread?

Folks often call mono the "kissing disease" because it's primarily spread through saliva. Think: coughing, sneezing, or sharing utensils and drinks, too.  With their close quarters and social interactions, college campuses can be hotspots for the spread of mono.

How can I help my college student prevent mono?

While there's no guaranteed way to prevent mono, know there are steps college students can take to reduce their risk. Encourage them to: 

  • Practice good hygiene: Regular handwashing and avoiding close contact with infected individuals can help.
  • Avoid sharing personal items: Don't share drinks, eating utensils, or anything that comes into contact with saliva.
  • Get enough rest: A well-rested body is better equipped to fight off infections.
  • Eat a balanced diet: Good nutrition can boost your immune system.
  • Stay informed: Knowing the symptoms and risk factors can help you recognize and respond to mono early.