Infectious mononucleosis, also referred commonly as mono or the kissing disease, is characterized by a group of symptoms caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). EBV belongs to the herpes virus family and is among the most common viruses that infect humans globally. The virus causing mono is transmitted via saliva; hence you get infected by kissing, but you can also get infection via a sneeze or a cough or by sharing food utensils or a glass with a person infected with mono. It generally takes around 4-8 weeks for symptoms to appear after you get infected with the virus. The majority of the cases of mononucleosis are mild and resolve with minimal treatment.
Can You Get Mono More than Once?
The majority of the individuals who have suffered from mononucleosis, get it only once during their lifetime, because the exposure to EBV have already created antibodies against it. They are immune to it and won’t suffer from mononucleosis again. However, very rarely, symptoms of mono may recur many months or years later. Once you get infected with Epstein-Barr virus, the virus remains in your system for the rest of life in a dormant state. The virus may get reactivated periodically. When this occurs, the virus may be found in your saliva; however, you may not get the symptoms. Rarely, reactivated Epstein-Barr virus may produce symptoms in individuals whose immune systems are weak such as in those patients who suffer from AIDS or in individuals who take drugs to suppress their immunity post organ transplant.
Symptoms of Mononucleosis You Should Know
After answering the question can you get mono more than once, let’s discuss how to identify if it occurs again? To identify the recurrence of mononucleosis you should be aware of the signs and symptoms of the illness. The common symptoms and signs of mono are:
Fatigue or tiredness
Sore throat, usually a strep throat that does not get relieved with the use of antibiotics
Swollen lymph nodes present in the armpits and neck
Swollen, soft spleen
Rarely, mononucleosis results in a serious condition referred to as chronic active EBV infection, characterized by the presence of persistent symptoms for more than 6 months after mononucleosis was diagnosed initially.
When to Visit a Physician
If you are having the above mentioned signs and symptoms and you have suffered from mono previously, visit a physician to find out the cause of your present signs and symptoms. You should be aware of the fact that many other medical conditions such as toxoplasmosis and hepatitis may mimic the signs and symptoms of mononucleosis.
How to Prevent the Recurrence of Mononucleosis?
To prevent the recurrence of mononucleosis, you have to maintain a strong immune system.
Reduce stress: Reduce the amount of stress in your life by practicing stress relieving techniques such as yoga, meditation etc.
Do regular exercise: Do regular moderate intensity exercises for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. This also helps in boosting up immunity.
Get adequate sleep: Get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep to keep your immunity up.
Eat a healthy and well balanced diet: Eating a healthy and well balanced diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is essential in boosting the immune system. If your diet is lacking in vitamins and minerals, then consult your doctor and take a supplement.
How Is Mononucleosis Diagnosed?
Your physician can usually make the diagnosis on the basis of the presence of signs of symptoms of fever, swollen lymph nodes and sore throat. Your age may also help in the diagnosis as mono is prevalent in teenagers; however, it can affect individuals in any age group. The diagnosis may be confirmed by using the following blood tests:
White blood cell (WBC) count: Mononucleosis results in increased production of white blood cells. Though an increased WBC count does not confirm the diagnosis, still it indicates the possibility of an infection with mono.
Mono spot test (EBV antibodies): Mono spot test is a test that is used to determine the presence of antibodies against EBV and a positive test is enough to confirm the diagnosis.
What Are the Complications of Mononucleosis?
After discussing answer to the question can you get mono more than once, let’s know its complications. Usually complications of mono are more severe than the disease. Some of these complications are:
Spleen enlargement: Mononucleosis may result in spleen enlargement. In severe cases, the spleen may get ruptured leading to sudden, sharp pain in the left upper abdomen. This is a medical emergency and immediate medical attention should be sought as surgery may be required.
Liver problems: Mononucleosis may result in problems with your liver. You may develop mild inflammation of the liver referred to as hepatitis. Occasionally, you may develop jaundice, which is characterized by yellowing of the white portion of the eyes and skin.
Some of the less common complications of mononucleosis are:
Anemia: This is characterized by a reduction in hemoglobin and red blood cells, which makes you feel dizzy and fatigue.
Thrombocytopenia: This is characterized by reduced number of platelets-blood cells that helps in blood clotting.
Heart problems: Mono can lead to myocarditis- an inflammation of the muscles of the heart.
Swelling of the tonsils: Breathing can be blocked by swollen tonsils.
Complications in the nervous system: Mono can lead to encephalitis, meningitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome.