Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

Besides getting plenty of bed rest, these steps can help relieve symptoms of mononucleosis:

  • Drink plenty of water and fruit juices. Fluids help relieve a fever and sore throat and prevent dehydration.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Use pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) as needed. These medicines have no antiviral properties. Take them only to relieve pain or a fever.

    Use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. Children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. This is because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in such children.

  • Gargle with salt water. Do this several times a day to relieve a sore throat. Mix 1/2 teaspoon salt in 8 ounces (237 milliliters) of warm water.

Wait to return to sports and some other activities

Most signs and symptoms of mononucleosis ease within a few weeks, but it may be two to three months before you feel completely normal. The more rest you get, the sooner you should recover. Returning to your usual schedule too soon can increase the risk of a relapse.

To avoid the risk of rupturing your spleen, wait at least one month before returning to vigorous activities, heavy lifting, roughhousing or contact sports. Rupture of the spleen results in severe bleeding and is a medical emergency.

Ask your doctor when it's safe for you to resume your normal level of activity. Your doctor may recommend a gradual exercise program to help you rebuild your strength as you recover.

Coping and support

Mononucleosis can last weeks, keeping you at home as you recover. Be patient with your body as it fights the infection.

For young people, having mononucleosis will mean some missed activities — classes, team practices and parties. Without a doubt, you'll need to take it easy for a while. Students need to let their schools know they are recovering from mononucleosis and may need special considerations to keep up with their work.

If you have mononucleosis, you don't necessarily need to be quarantined. Many people are already immune to the Epstein-Barr virus because of exposure as children. But plan on staying home from school and other activities until you're feeling better.

Seek the help of friends and family as you recover from mononucleosis. College students should also contact the campus student health center staff for assistance or treatment, if necessary.

Prevention

Mononucleosis is spread through saliva. If you're infected, you can help prevent spreading the virus to others by not kissing them and by not sharing food, dishes, glasses and utensils until several days after your fever has subsided and even longer, if possible.

The Epstein-Barr virus may persist in your saliva for months after the infection. No vaccine exists to prevent mononucleosis.

Dec. 11, 2015
References
  1. AskMayoExpert. Epstein-Barr virus infection. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
  2. Sullivan JL. Clinical manifestations and treatment of Epstein-Barr virus infection. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 26, 2015.
  3. Aronson MD, et al. Infectious mononucleosis in adults and adolescents. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 26, 2015.
  4. Epstein-Barr virus and infectious mononucleosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/epstein-barr/index.html. Accessed Oct. 26, 2015.
  5. Infectious mononucleosis. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/herpesviruses/infectious-mononucleosis. Accessed Oct. 26, 2015.
  6. Reye's syndrome information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/reyes_syndrome/reyes_syndrome.htm. Accessed Oct. 26, 2015.