Mono versus the Flu

Do I Have Mono, the Flu, or a Common Cold?

Mononucleosis - the infection popularly referred to as "mono" - is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and can produce a host of signs and symptoms in infected individuals that frequently resemble a bad case of the flu, strep throat, and other common ailments. In order to differentiate between symptoms of infectious mono and symptoms of the common cold or influenza, it is helpful to know what the signs of mono look like in order to help prevent the spreading of infection to others.

If I Have Mono, Do I Have to Stay Home?

Some people believe that anyone suffering from mono should be confined to their home so that they will not spread the infection. The facts about mono, however, are as follows:

Mono is not transmitted through casual contact and thus there is no reason why infected individuals should be confined to their homes. They can carry on with their daily activities but should refrain from close bodily contact and the sharing of glasses, drinks, straws, etc. If an infected individual has fever or suffers from fatigue, they might choose to stay home and rest. If an infected individual's spleen or liver is swollen and at risk for rupturing or injury, they should exercise caution not to injure the abdominal area.

Typical Infectious Mono Symptoms

The following are some of the common signs and symptoms of infectious mononucleosis:

•- Chills and a fever (of 101 degrees F or more) often accompany infectious mononucleosis

•- Exhaustion, weakness, fatigue, excessive sleep. While the body fights EBV, it becomes weak and thus plenty of rest and sleep is what the doctor orders. (Among other benefits of sleep, melatonin is produced by the body, which helps repair cells and promotes healing)

•- Swollen lymph nodes on the neck and under the armpit are common side effects of mono, caused by bacteria trapped by the lymphatic system (hence the swelling) in an effort to naturally filtrate the body

•- Red and swollen tonsils or tonsillitis, giving rise to pain when talking, eating, and swallowing (and in severe cases to removal of one's tonsils). Note that tonsils are lymph nodes located in the mouth, thus they trap bacteria in the same way as neck lymph nodes

•- Loss of appetite

•- A rash resembling the measles

•- Enlarged or swollen liver and/or spleen with the danger of rupture. Therefore people experiencing a swollen liver/spleen are advised to refrain from physical exertion or exercise until the condition passes.

Treating Mono Symptoms

Rest is the number one treatment recommendation for mono. While the infection itself, which is viral, cannot be treated by antibiotics, accompanying symptoms can be reduced via over-the-counter pain medications to treat pain and fever (i.e. Ibuprofen, Tylenol, or Motrin), throat lozenges for sore throats/swollen tonsils, plenty of fluids, and self-care.


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