Glandular fever is also known as 'infectious mononucleosis' and 'the kissing disease'. It is a contagious viral infection which is particularly common amongst adolescents and young adults. It is also widespread in shared environments such as schools and colleges.

The symptoms of glandular fever are similar to those of flu. They can first appear about a week after exposure to the virus or they may appear months later. They include:

  • fever which is characterised by a temperature of 38ÂșC or above and alternate bouts of shivering and hot sweat
  • sore throat
  • swollen glands in the neck, armpits and groin
  • white spots appearing on the tonsils#
  • abdominal pain due to an enlarged spleen or inflammation of the liver
  • exhaustion/lack of energy
  • aches and pains all over the body
  • loss of appetite
  • headache
  • wanting to be alone
  • intolerance of noise and strong smells
  • abnormal blood tests

Recovery varies greatly: sometimes symptoms last for only a couple of weeks but in other cases they last for up to two years.

Causes

Glandular fever is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It is named after two British scientists who first discovered the virus in 1958. The virus is transmitted through saliva therefore it can be passed on by kissing or by sharing utensils and food. The virus can also be released into the air when a person coughs or sneezes. Tiny airborne droplets then circulate and can enter another person's body when they breathe in.

Someone with glandular fever may be infectious for several months.

Treatment

There is no cure for glandular fever; the virus should disappear on its own without treatment.

Antibiotics will not help to cure glandular fever: they are used to fight infections caused by bacteria, not viruses. Some antibiotics commonly cause a rash if given to people with glandular fever.

  • simple pain relief treatments containing either aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen can help to ease aches and pains and reduce fever
  • sucking pastilles or lozenges can ease a sore throat because simply increasing the amount of saliva produced in the mouth cab help to soothe the throat. Some products contain anaesthetics, which help to numb the pain
  • gargling with soluble aspirin solution or salt water can also help to ease a sore throat. Aspirin is not recommended for children
  • rest
  • eating a well balanced diet is very important. Anyone with glandular fever will need to keep strong and healthy in order to fight off the virus
  • drink plenty of fluids
  • avoid alcohol because it can weaken the body's immune system making it harder to fight the illness
  • avoid strenuous exercise and lifting heavy objects. If the spleen is enlarged, this could make it worse
  • so as not to spread the infection, avoid close contact with others

When To See A Doctor

Anyone who believes they may be suffering from glandular fever should go and see a doctor. A blood test can be carried out to help diagnose the illness.