Did you know that the blood test used to identify infectious mononucleosis can yield a false positive? Well, that seems to be the case with my five-year-old. The good news is that she bounced back from whatever virus she did have in roughly 10 days — a simple nasty cold virus, as it turns out. The only real down side is that she will not have developed any anti-bodies against mono when she is eventually exposed to it, as apparently almost every human being is at some point.
In the interim when we thought our innocent little five-year-old had mono, I did some research about it, and this is what I learned:
- Mono seems to be primarily linked with the Epstein-Barr virus and usually results during an initial exposure to the virus.
- It typically occurs in teenagers ages 15-17, but can be caught at any age.
- Most adults over the age of 25 are immune, due to previous exposure.
- The virus is transmitted through saliva, which is why the term “kissing disease” was coined.
- It can take weeks or months to recover.
- The main symptoms include a very sore throat with swollen and blistered tonsils, swollen lymph nodes (particularly in the neck), fever, and extreme fatigue.
- One of the nastier symptoms that can occur is a swollen spleen, which means that anyone with mono should not play contact sports and risk further injury to the spleen.
- Not everyone develops these symptoms when exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus.
- The incubation period for mono is roughly 4-7 weeks, which means that people can be contagious for a long time before developing symptoms.
- There is no medicine that has been shown to be effective in curing mono. Antibiotics can actually make it worse, sometimes resulting in an additional rash.
- The best treatment seems to be drinking fluids, getting plenty of rest, gargling with salt-water for the sore throat, and taking an over-the-counter medicine for the fever and discomfort, per your doctor’s recommendation.
A monospot test can be administered using a finger-prick blood test in order to determine whether or not a patient has mono, but according to my own experience, this test is not 100% accurate. Even given my encounter with the false positive reading though, I’d still want the benefit of the test the next time around. I’d rather have an educated guess about what my kids may or may not have, and it may be useful in ruling out mono or preparing for a long recovery.