Tuesday, September 4, 2012

“Kissing Disease” Returns with Back-to-School Season

Infectious mononucleosis, more commonly referred to simply as mono, can affect adolescents and young adults ages 15-24 with the most significant symptoms.

Sick teenage girl in bed.
Mono, also known as the "kissing disease," is common among ages 15-24.

As school-age kids and college students head back to school, make sure they’re aware of the risks of mono (infectious mononucleosis). Although it’s known as the "kissing disease” because it is passed through saliva, exposure is also possible through other spit-swapping habits, such as sharing a glass or an eating utensil with an infectious person.

If exposed, you won’t get sick right away though. One to two months later, mono often starts with a headache, body aches and a low-grade fever. The three most common symptoms of mono include:

  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Sore throat

Most symptoms go away within a couple of weeks but severe fatigue may last for months. Infants and young children may have few or no symptoms. More significant symptoms are usually seen in adolescents and young adults, ages 15 to 24.

Mono can also affect various internal organs resulting in many different symptoms.

Risk of Splenic Rupture

The spleen is an organ located in the upper left side of the abdomen. During acute mono, the spleen enlarges in about 50 percent of people. The spleen may rupture spontaneously or due to trauma.

Splenic rupture is a rare but potentially life-threatening complication due to large amounts of blood loss. Rupture is most likely to happen between days four to 21 of sickness and requires immediate medical attention.

To prevent rupture, all athletes should refrain from sports for a minimum of four weeks after onset of mono symptoms. Strenuous contact sports like football and activities such as weightlifting that increase the intra-abdominal pressure should also be avoided. You should get clearance from your doctor before returning to physical activity.

Mono Recovery Tips

Patients with mono will eventually get better so treatment consists of supportive care only:

  • You should stay well hydrated and adequately nourished.
  • Rest is important but you are not confined to bed rest.

Naturopathic treatment of mono may potentially speed up recovery. Treatment may include antiviral and immune support through diet, nutritional supplements, herbal medicine and hydrotherapy to encourage and support the body’s ability to heal itself.

If you think you have mono, you should call your health care provider. To learn more about naturopathic treatments, make an appointment at Bastyr Center for Natural Health by calling 206-834-4100.

— Marissa Pellegrini, ND, naturopathic physician and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University.

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