Better known as "the kissing disease," infectious mononucleosis (mono) is passed from person to person via saliva. Kissing an infected person isn't the only way to get mono, however. If the person happens to sneeze or cough on you, the risk of catching it is there. Sharing glassware or silverware is another way to catch it. Interestingly enough, while mono is highly contagious, it's not as contagious as the common cold, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Unlike the common cold, however, mono has a number of complications that are rather severe. The disease can last anywhere from one week to a month. There have been cases in which the symptoms have lasted for several months; however, this is rare.
Spleen complications from mono
First and foremost, mono can cause problems with the spleen. The illness can cause your spleen to enlarge; in some cases, the spleen can rupture. An indication of this is sharp and sudden pain on the left side of the upper abdomen or pain while inhaling, according to the Mononucleosis Awareness Association. The pain then spreads to the whole abdomen. If you have been diagnosed with mono and develop this type of pain, see a doctor or go to an emergency room immediately. In some cases, surgery is needed to repair this condition.
Liver complications from mono
Several complications to the liver can be brought on by a bout of mono. Mild liver inflammation from mono can cause hepatitis. Mono can also cause jaundice, which is the temporary yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes.
Complications with the central nervous system
Central nervous system complications from mono are extreme and infrequent; however, you should be aware of them. Bell's palsy and encephalitis are the most common complications mono can bring to the central nervous system.
Strep infections can occur in some cases and require a doctor's intervention. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the strep virus.
Some less common albeit serious complications can occur if you contract mono. One is anemia, which means your red blood cell and hemoglobin counts have decreased. Another is a low count of platelets, called thrombocytopenia. Heart inflammation is also a complication.
Preventing and treating mono at home
There are some things you can do at home to help combat the onset of mono. Drink plenty of fluids-particularly water and fruit juice-to soothe a sore throat and keep dehydration away. An over-the-counter medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can be taken as needed for any pain you are experiencing or to reduce a fever.
Though many complications of mono resolve themselves on their own, mono is not something to be taken lightly. If you suspect you have mono or think you are suffering from any of these complications, see your doctor immediately.