Glandular fever, also called infectious mononucleosis, is a viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, the name comes from the British researchers who first discovered it. The Epstein-Barr virus is part of the herpes group of viruses and is very common, however, like the other herpes viruses you may be infected but never show any symptoms.
The vast majority of people with glandular fever will make a full recovery and it is extremely rare to develop it again.
Glandular fever can affect anyone but it is most common in young adults and teenagers.
How can I catch glandular fever?
The infection is transferred from one person to another in saliva. This is why kissing is one of the most common ways of catching the disease and why glandular fever is often referred to as the ‘kissing disease’. Coughing, sneezing and sharing cups or cutlery can also pass on glandular fever.
What are the symptoms of glandular fever?
Glandular fever symptoms can take 1-2 months to develop after infection and can produce one or more of the following symptoms:
Symptoms will usually resolve after 2-3 weeks, fatigue is usually the symptom which is last to go and some people can feel tired for months.
If you have any unusual or severe symptoms, you should contact your doctor for advice.
How is glandular fever diagnosed?
Your doctor will probably be able to diagnose glandular fever from your symptoms alone, he will feel for swollen glands, tonsils and spleen. Your doctor might then recommend a blood test to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions. If the blood test is positive it will show abnormal cells called monocytes, this is why in America the infection is commonly known as ‘mono’. Your doctor may also take a throat swab to rule out any throat infections.
What treatment is available for glandular fever?
Most people with glandular fever will require no specific treatment. Antibiotics do not help this type of infection as it is a virus. Your doctor will only prescribe antibiotics if you have another infection present e.g. tonsillitis. Most people will make a complete recovery in 2-3 weeks. However, because of the extreme fatigue it may be several months before you feel perfectly fit. Complete rest is the best treatment for glandular fever, though some symptoms can be relieved with the following:
What are the complications of glandular fever?
Complications are very rare, though you may feel extremely tired and run down for some time after the infection has cleared up. Rare complications you may have with glandular fever include:
To prevent the spread of the virus, avoid kissing and close bodily contact with others, don’t share towels, cups and clothing whilst ill.
Try to avoid any rough or contact sport for about 6 – 8 weeks, especially if you have suffered an enlarged spleen.