Q: My child may have “mono”. What can I do for her? How can we be sure that this is the correct diagnosis?
A: Nancy Snyderman, M.D., F.A.C.S: You do not say how old your daughter is, but many parents are surprised when their young children come down with mononucleosis. We often think of it in connection with teen-agers and young adults, but it is fairly common in young children. It is a contagious viral disease, spread in mucus and saliva. Your daughter may have gotten it through close contact with another child.
Infectious mononucleosis is diagnosed via blood test and when the findings are positive, the test is very reliable. You can be confident about the diagnosis if your daughter has symptoms and a positive blood test. Should you still have doubts, talk with her pediatrician.
In very young children, infectious mononucleosis tends to be mild, often showing no symptoms at all. No treatment may be needed other than restricting activity levels until her body has fought off the virus. This restriction applies to older children with mono, too, because the spleen often becomes enlarged and there is an increased risk of rupturing it. Normal activity is fine, but sports, lifting heavy objects and vigorous activities are not advised until the infection has cleared.
Older children and teens usually have more pronounced symptoms, including fatigue, fever, swollen glands, sore throat and others. There is no treatment for the virus itself, but you can treat the symptoms with non-prescription remedies. (Do not give any form of aspirin to children and teens.) The virus is self-limiting and usually goes away by itself within 10 days to a month. Fatigue sometimes lingers a bit longer.