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Signs and Symptoms of Mono-The Kissing Disease

"Mom, something is wrong with me, I can't breathe."  As I turn to respond to my son's somewhat broken voice, my jaw dropped at his appearance.

His face was so swollen; his eyes were beet red and he could barely open them. My first thought was a spider bite. I asked him if he remembered being bitten by something at work. This wouldn't be out of the ordinary since he works nights unloading freight from long haul trucks.

I immediately called the clinic and they suggested I take him to urgent care. As we sat in the waiting room, I noticed a lump the size of an egg protruding from his neck. He pointed out a lump shaped like a golf ball under his chin. What is going on?

The doctor noticed his stomach and sides were swollen as well. "Have you ever had mono", the doctor asks. My son and me, chuckle at the possibility that he would have the "kissing disease". Mono can't be this serious, can it?

The nurse drew blood and an hour later came back with a positive test result. The doctor went on to say that it is imperative he get plenty of bed rest, no physical activity, no lifting and definitely no sports whatsoever.  "Excuse, me", I say.  Justin went on to tell the doctor that he just came off a nine-hour shift, and all he did was lift boxes. He told the doctor that he felt like he was going to die. He never experienced such weird pain and he kept feeling faint. Naturally, I looked at my son and asked him why he didn't call me to come pick him up. Although I shouldn't be surprised. He takes his responsibilities seriously.

The doctor told my son he was lucky his spleen did not rupture, and what he was experiencing was the effects of pushing his body farther than he should have.

As I sit there and process all of this information, I was taken back to my high school days when everyone joked about this kissing disease. It was no big deal, or so we thought. But then again, no one in my circle of friends ever had it, so how would we know.

I'm brought back to the present as the doctor returns with the list of symptoms and appropriate care instructions.

The list reads like this:

Symptoms of Mononucleosis:

* Tiredness

* Headache

* Muscle aches

* Sore throat

* Nausea

* A loss of appetite

* Swollen glands


Four weeks ago, my son switched from the day shift to the night shift; this took some getting used to. His sleeping and eating habits were dramatically affected. Three weeks ago, we moved-he was helping his dad move furniture all day and then worked two 11-hour shifts, back to back. In the midst of this, we noticed he wasn't eating well and he seemed lethargic.  We thought nothing of it, as he was obviously tired from his lack of sleep.

As the days went on, we noticed red and glossy eyes. We kept asking him if something was wrong. He just kept saying he was tired.  We all agreed that this night job wasn't working out and he needed to give notice. In the meantime, there was a gradual change in behavior--quiet, not eating and those glossy eyes. Some might have thought he was "getting high". It did seem to fit, but somehow we knew this wasn't the case. Then the headache came. At this, I took him to the doctor. His doctor said he might have bronchitis due to the sore throat and headaches. Great, we thought.  After completing his round of anti-biotic, he was worse instead of better. What was obviously the beginnings of mono, could have been perceived as a child smoking pot, and even led his doctor to believe it was something else.



As we went over Justin's recent activity with the doctor, we learned that a sudden change in activity and lack of sleep weakened his immune system. It all made perfect sense.

As I continued to read this information sheet, I was surprised to learn how serious this virus can be:

How long will it last -- What to watch for:

* 4 – 6 weeks recovery time

* An uncommon complication can be an abscess on one or both tonsils. Seek immediate medical attention if symptoms persist longer than two-weeks.

* No heavy lifting or physical activity due to the possibility of an enlarged spleen, which can rupture, causing severe bleeding which requires surgery.

* It can take several weeks, and in some cases several months, for the body's immune system to overcome the virus.

How to prevent the spread of mononucleosis:

The virus that causes mono is called the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It is spread mainly through saliva. (Hence the nickname "kissing disease".)  There is no known cure for this virus.

Therefore, you should avoid the following:

* Sharing food

* Sharing eating utensils

* Drinking from the same container

* Kissing

Taking care of yourself:

* Get lots of rest

* Take ibuprofen for the fever, sore throat or muscle aches.

* Drink more fluids

* Call your doctor is the symptoms get worse instead of better




From the first sign of glossy eyes and fatigue to the correct diagnosis in Urgent care, it was three weeks.

I could beat myself up for not responding to this sooner, but not having experienced this before, it didn't seem like anything other than a cold.  Now I know different.  Justin spends at least 15 hours a day sleeping. After one week, the swelling in his face has gone down, but he still has the big lumps in his throat, making it difficult to breathe.

I suppose the biggest lesson in all of this is that if an antibiotic is not working as it should, don't assume it's just a cold. Call your doctor immediately; make a list of your child's symptoms. If they resemble the above in any way, ask the doctor to test for mono.  If my son had gotten proper rest early on, he wouldn't be as bad as he is today.

On a lighter note, his biggest frustration with this is he cannot ride his dirt bike. "I'm wasting valuable practice time", he says. There is a race scheduled for the end of September. I may have to handcuff him to his bed to keep him from going if he is not 100% better by then.

* Information source: Clinical Reference Systems 2008 Copyright.
(C) Teresa Ortiz
11,324 - 53 - 0 - US
Teresa is an author, a speaker, and owner of Stonebridge Publications. She has been married for 28 years and has three grown children. Her greatest joy is leading others closer to Christ through practical study of the word of God. She prefers using the lighter things in life and a good laugh to make her point, but realizes the darker and deeper things of life must also be addressed. For more information on Stonebridge Publications, visit

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