It's called the kissing disease, which makes mono sound a lot more romantic than it really is. According to the Mayo Clinic, mononucleosis is spread through saliva, meaning you can be exposed to it from kissing, coughing, sneezing, or sharing items like glasses, utensils, and toothbrushes. The common cold is more contagious, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be on the lookout for signs you might have mono — which, confusingly, look a lot like the symptoms of other illnesses.
Mono is a sneaky little thing. ABC News says it affects roughly 95 percent of us at some point in our lives. In fact, by five years old, half of the children in this country will get it. Mono is often caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, which attacks white blood cells; and here's the kicker: once you get it, it stays in your cells for.ev.er. There is one upside, though, even though you always carry the virus: the University of Michigan's University Health Service says you're not likely to feel the effects of mono a second time.
It all might sound like a death sentence, but Healthline assures us it's usually not all that serious. However, if it lingers, mono can also cause strep, tonsillitis, and sinus infections. Either way, being sick stinks; and the best you can do is familiarize yourself with the symptoms of mono so you can catch them early on. Here are seven of them.
1. Swollen Lymph Nodes
According to Healthline, your lymph nodes filter a fluid called lymph as it travels through your lymphatic system. These glands are like a "checkpoint": if a bacteria or virus tries to pass, your lymph nodes will work to stop it. When the glands do encounter some kind of infection, they collect bacteria and sick or dead cells. As a result, they become swollen. So, swollen lymph nodes are a sign that your body is working hard to feel better. You have lymph nodes throughout your body, like under your jaw on both sides, your armpits, and in your neck. The glands typically become swollen where your infection is lingering, which is why swollen neck glands are common with mono.
2. A Swollen Spleen
Since the spleen is part of the lymphatic system, it's no surprise that this organ can also become swollen when you have mono. Like the lymph nodes, the spleen works to fight off infections and viruses, explains Dr. Axe. Namely, it produces antibodies to fight the bad germs, and also helps keep blood clean. A swollen spleen can indicate your immune system is working overtime to keep you healthy, but is having a hard time keeping up.
3. Swollen Tonsils And A Sore Throat
Enlarged tonsils are a side effect of infection in the human body. Unsurprisingly, this symptom is often kept company by swollen lymph nodes and many other signs indicative of mono, according to MedicineNet. It's also common to experience a sore throat, which typically results from a viral infection, says the Mayo Clinic — and mono is a viral infection.
Rashes are a documented symptom of viral infections, explains MedlinePlus — although they might not be that common. According to OnHealth, only about five percent of people with mono have rashes covering their bodies. If you see something resembling the measles, though, you could be part of the small percentage.
So many of the symptoms of mono are a sign that your body is working — and probably successfully — to rid itself of the infection. A fever is no different. Medical News Today explains that your body raises its temperature so the immune system can fight an infection, because it works to neutralize the virus. This is because certain bacteria and viruses are especially sensitive to changes in temperature, says HowStuffWorks. For this reason, a mild fever might actually be in your favor. (Severe ones, however, warrant a trip to the doctor.)
6. Unexplained Fatigue
You know by now that mono can come with swollen tonsils and lymph nodes in your neck. Because the swelling causes a narrowing of your throat, your breathing is more obstructed, especially when you're sleeping. It's even worse during deep sleep when your muscles are relaxed, and also if you're sleeping on your back, explains Dr. Steven Park. As a result, you might have extra difficulty sleeping due to breathing problems. This is one likely explanation for why mono is often accompanied by extreme tiredness.
7. Night Sweats
There are a couple reasons night sweats could be a sign of mono. For starters, it's a possible side effect of sleeping problems. For instance, some people who have sleep apnea also suffer from night sweats, according to the Mayo Clinic. As explained, mono is sometimes accompanied by sleeping difficulty, and thus could cause profuse sweating at night.
Secondly, night sweats can occur whenever an illness also involves a fever, according to research by Lawrence Dall and James F. Stanford — which mono very well might.