Mononucleosis: The Kissing Disease

Mononucleosis, commonly known as “mono” or the “kissing disease,” is an infectious illness that primarily affects teenagers and young adults. Caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), mono can lead to a range of symptoms that can disrupt daily life. 


Mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, a member of the herpesvirus family. This virus is highly contagious and spreads through close contact, such as kissing and sharing drinks or utensils. It can also spread through the air by coughing and sneezing, just like COVID-19 and the common cold.


The virus primarily targets the salivary glands, and it can take between four to eight weeks from exposure to the onset of symptoms. Common symptoms include extreme fatigue, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. The fatigue can be particularly overwhelming and may last for several weeks. Students with mono may first realize they have it because they fall asleep in class. 

Some individuals might also develop a rash, experience muscle aches, and have a loss of appetite. In rare cases, mononucleosis can lead to complications, which can be severe. Hepatitis, enlargement of the spleen, and anemia are some of the conditions that can be seen as complications from mono. 

If your teen experiences symptoms that suggest mononucleosis, your family pediatrician will conduct a physical examination and usually order blood tests. These tests can help confirm the presence of the Epstein-Barr virus by detecting specific antibodies in the blood.


Unfortunately, there is no specific cure for mononucleosis. Treatment focuses on managing the symptoms and allowing the body to recover naturally. Adequate rest is essential, as pushing through the fatigue can prolong recovery. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help alleviate fever, sore throat, and muscle aches. Hydration and a balanced diet are also crucial for supporting the immune system during recovery.

Mononucleosis can disrupt a teenager’s daily life, including their school attendance and participation in extracurricular activities. Teens should communicate with their teachers and school staff about their condition to make necessary accommodations, such as extensions on assignments or modified schedules. It’s important for teenagers to give themselves permission to rest and recover, even if it means taking a temporary break from their usual activities.

Preventing the spread of mononucleosis requires good hygiene. Avoid close contact with individuals who are infected, don’t share personal items like drinks or utensils, and regularly wash your hands. If you’re diagnosed with mono, informing close contacts about your condition can prevent its spread.

If you’re concerned that your teen may have mononucleosis, make an appointment with your pediatrician