Weekly Checkup: Mononucleosis

On sultry summer nights in the District, we are all tempted to relax and get in touch with our romantic sides. On a college campus on these tempting evenings, students need to balance work, sometimes classes, and their personal life, which could culminate in catching mononucleosis for a month, whether it is with a significant other or an intoxicated acquaintance.

Mono, also known as the kissing disease, has become an ominous shadow lurking over college students. It is a viral illness that is transferred through saliva. Typically, cold-like symptoms are severe for a week or two, and the fatigue lasts for a month, said Susan Haney, the clinical program coordinator at Student Health Services.

But everyone reacts to mono differently and there is a huge range of how it affects people, Haney said. She emphasized the range of symptoms people may experience, from a mild cold to severe fatigue.

“Most people feel extremely sore throats, and it’s difficult to drink water,” Haney said. “On the whole, people feel tired, experience a severe level of fatigue, and sometimes occasionally are hospitalized, when they can’t swallow and need fluids – but that is rare.”

Only a few students a year experience such a high level of fatigue they cannot finish the school year, Haney said. If one experiences similar symptoms, she recommends getting plenty of rest, not overstressing your body, not staying up too late, drinking water, gargling and taking Advil.

“Rest as much as you can! Get people to run your errands for you, get your friends to bring you food. Get as much rest as possible .there are no medications for it,” Haney said.

Theoretically, mono can also be spread through coughing and sharing food, in addition to intimate contact. The student clinic rarely sees romantic partners catching the disease at the same time, Haney said. This means that if your romantic partner is experiencing mono-style symptoms or knows they have it, it is ok to get up close and personal with them, to an extent.

Since most viruses are contagious before the symptoms even exist, it is unrealistic to advise couples not to kiss, but if you have a sore throat for more than several days, and it’s progressively getting worse, see a clinician to test for mono or strep throat. Haney suggested covering your mouth and washing your hands a lot when others are coughing and you know they have mono.

Haney said, “If you’ve had it already, as some people have when they’re children and may or may not have realized it, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t get it again. The immunity is not absolute, but is a pretty good one in any case.”

-Prerna Rao

“Weekly check up” is a regular feature in the Life section. If you have a health topic you want to know more about, e-mail features@gwhatchet.com.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.