Mono — What is it and how to identify it

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Mononucleosis is commonly nicknamed the “kissing disease” on college campuses. As it turns out, the name isn’t that far from the truth.

“I always hear about people who say they got mono in college,” said human development and family studies freshman Claire Lynch.

The seemingly elusive illness is transmitted through the exchanging of saliva – which includes sharing drinks, eating utensils, lipstick or lip gloss—and yes, even kissing. Its symptoms vary in commonality from person-to-person, making it difficult to identify.

“Typical symptoms of infectious Mononucleosis include fever, sore throat, swollen lymph glands in neck and fatigue,” said Dr. Suman Kashyap, Associate Director of Clinical Affairs from Olin Health Center at Michigan State University.

Kashyap said mono is most common in young adults starting at age fifteen. The illness can be erratic on a college campus where the average age group ranges from 17 to early twenties.

The earliest indicators include fever, nausea or loss of appetite and headaches. The appearance of these symptoms ranges from four to six weeks after initial exposure, according to a brochure from the American College Health Association, which is given to students at Olin Health Center following a diagnosis of mono.

Michigan State senior Lauren Starr has been experiencing symptoms of mono for about five weeks. She described the illness in one word—exhausting.

“My worst symptoms have been my extreme exhaustion and fatigue as well as the symptoms I experienced just after getting diagnosed, which included a persistent fever, sore throat, and swollen glands in my neck and spleen,” said Starr.

Starr said that mono has kept her from carrying out her normal routine. Her biggest battle—not being able to be physically active.

“I have not been able to work out which is something that I am used to doing every day,” Starr said. “There is potential for the spleen to rupture if it is hit or aggravated when someone has mono, which can be life threatening if it were to rupture.”

Dr. Kashyap reinforced Starr’s statement, saying it is a physician’s recommendation to wait at least four to six weeks after initial diagnosis before continuing with normal physical activity.

When it comes to a full recovery, not many medications are able to combat the illness—it takes more than a simple prescription to recover.

“Maintenance of adequate fluids and nutrition is important,” Dr. Kashyap said. “It is advised to get extra rest, but bed rest is unnecessary. Some medications may be required only if complications develop.”

Olin Health Center sees an average of 180 to 200 cases of mono in a year. It doesn’t occur more frequently in one season over another, so transmission of the illness can occur year-round.

According to the American College Health Association, if you have symptoms that are similar to those stated above, it might not mean you have mono, but it is encouraged to see a health care professional to be evaluated.

“Mono has affected every aspect of my life and I can’t wait until I am back to normal health,” said Starr.

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