Kissing with much affection can lead to one thing or another. But did you know that kissing can also lead to missed parties, postponed exams, sitting out a season of team sports and loneliness?
Kissing can lead to an infectious disease. The disease is infectious mononucleosis or most commonly known as “kissing disease” or simply mono. Saliva is the primary method of transmitting mono. Infectious mononucleosis developed its common name of “kissing disease” from this prevalent form of transmission among teenagers. A person with mono can also pass the disease by coughing or sneezing, sharing food or beverages from the same container or utensil.
Kissing disease is an infectious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, one type of herpes virus. It is widespread viral disease to which more than 90% of adults have been exposed. After you’re infected, the virus stays with you for life, but usually doesn’t cause any additional symptoms. Still, every now and then you may produce viral particles in your saliva that can transmit the virus to other people, even though you feel perfectly fine.
This disease is most common in young adults, being particularly infectious to people between the ages of around 10 and 30. 15-17 year old are at especially high risk, and the kissing disease is a scourge of high school and college campuses. About half of all children are infected with EBV before they’re 5, but at that young age, it usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. If you don’t become infected with EBV until you’re a teen or older, you’re more likely to develop mono symptoms.
Less often, symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, rash, or jaundice. And in extremely rare cases, some patients report an “Alice in Wonderland” effect, whereby their eyesight is affected such that the size of objects appear distorted.
The incubation period for the kissing disease can be quite long. Patients usually feel some fatigue and weakness as the virus starts to attack their B lymphocytes. Another common mono symptom is fever. A temperature as high as 39.5 degrees Celsius (103 degrees Fahrenheit) is not uncommon. Other symptoms include a tired achy feeling, appetite loss, white patches on the back of the throat, and tonsillitis.
The most distinguishing mono symptom is enlarged glands or lymph nodes, especially in the neck, but also in the armpit and groin. “Mono” can cause liver inflammation and spleen enlargement.
Diagnosis of mono includes a complete blood count, which may show an atypical lymphocytosis. A heterophil antibody test (monospot) may be negative if done too early in the course of your child’s illness and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) titers, which can help tell if your child has a current or past EBV infection.
You can avoid mono by wash your hands frequently, avoiding exposure to others who have a sore throat. Do not share eating utensils and avoid crowded areas during cold and flu season. Vigorous contact sports should also be avoided to prevent spleen rupture.
In most cases of mono, no specific treatment is necessary. The illness is usually self-limited and passes much the way other common viral illnesses resolve. Treatment is directed toward the relief of symptoms. Those treatments include bed rest, fever control, pain control for the sore throat, and fluids to prevent dehydration.
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