Mononucleosis in Teens: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Mononucleosis, also called mono, is an infection that is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Mono is spread through contact with saliva, mucus from the nose and throat, and sometimes tears or blood.

You can get mono by kissing a person who is infected. Or you may get it by sharing eating utensils or a drinking glass with someone who has mono.

Mono may cause your spleen to swell. The spleen is an organ in the upper left side of your belly. A blow to the belly can cause a swollen spleen to break open. In very rare cases, the spleen may burst on its own.

Most people recover fully after several weeks. But it may take several months before your normal energy is back. The lymph nodes in your neck may be larger than normal for up to 1 month. Getting lots of rest and keeping your schedule light will help you feel better. Time helps you recover.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Get plenty of rest. Stay in bed as much as you can until you feel well enough to be up.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • For a sore throat, suck on lozenges or gargle with salt water. To make salt water, mix 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), for a sore throat or headache or to lower a fever. Read and follow all instructions on the label. No one younger than 20 should take aspirin. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Do not play contact sports or lift anything heavy for 4 weeks after becoming ill with mono. Too much activity increases the chance that your spleen may break open.
  • Try not to spread the virus to others. Do not kiss or share dishes, glasses, eating utensils, or toothbrushes for at least 2 weeks. The virus is spread when saliva from an infected person gets in another person's mouth. It is hard to know how long you may be contagious.
  • If you know you have mono, do not donate blood. There is a chance of spreading the virus through blood products.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have bad pain in your upper left belly.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your tonsils are so swollen that it is hard to breathe or swallow.
  • You have signs of needing more fluids. You have sunken eyes and a dry mouth, and you pass only a little dark urine.
  • Your skin and the whites of your eyes look yellow. These are signs of jaundice.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You are still very tired after 2 weeks.
  • You begin to get better, but then you feel sick again or have new symptoms. This may mean that you have a different infection.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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