Glandular fever: The basics

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Known informally as "the kissing disease", glandular fever is most common in young adults and is transmitted by saliva (and hence the nickname).

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The illness is also known as "infectious mononucleosis" - which is generally shortened to "mono" in the US.

What causes it?
It is actually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is one of the most common viruses to affect humans. Most of the time it's effects are minimal but during early adulthood we are particularly vulnerable to it.

The "kissing disease" tag can be a bit misleading because it can also be transmitted by coughs and sneezes and sharing drinks or utensils.

The incubation period between infection and the emergence of symptoms is 33 to 49 days and sufferers are usually contagious for around two months after infection.

What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms are a high temperature of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or above, a sore throat, swollen nodes (glands) in the neck and fatigue.

The sore throat bit can be pretty bad, with sufferers often experiencing swollen tonsils and adenoids, oozing fluid and purple spots on the roof of their mouth.

And just in case that wasn't enough, symptoms also include: headaches, chills, sweats, loss of appetite, pain behind the eyes, swelling of the spleen (causing a tender lump in the left side of the abdomen), swelling or "puffiness" around the eyes, swelling of the liver (usually causing mild pain and tenderness in the lower right side of the abdomen) and jaundice.

What's the prognosis?
The bad news is that there is no cure. The good news is that most symptoms pass within two or three weeks in the majority of sufferers.

A small proportion of those with glandular fever experience fatigue for a longer period. Rest is important to recovery and sufferers are advised against strenuous sports for a month or so.

In a very small number of these cases the sufferer can go on to develop chronic fatigue syndrome - and sometime hepatitis or pneumonia can be complications - requiring intensive medical support.

How common is it?
In any given year, one-in-200 people are expected to develop glandular fever - mostly 15 to 24-year-olds.

Both sexes are equally affected and other ages can also suffer - often with less serious or fewer of the symptoms.

Ironically it is predicted to become more common as general standards of hygiene improve in the developed world. It is thought that fewer children will get EBV when young, leading to more getting it during early adulthood - when the symptoms are more severe.

Have you suffered from glandular fever? Leave a comment below...