What treatments are available for infectious mono?

Infectious mononucleosis, often called “kissing disease“, is a viral infection commonly spread through saliva and less frequently through shared utensils, sneezes, coughs, or contact with blood and other bodily fluids. Predominantly affecting teenagers and young adults, mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein–Barr virus (EBV), responsible for up to 50% of cases.

Despite its nickname, treatment for mononucleosis is far from straightforward romantic whimsy. There is no cure or specific antiviral treatment effective against EBV, as commonly used antiviral medications have shown little success in clinical settings. Consequently, managing mononucleosis focuses primarily on alleviating symptoms that can persist for weeks, often extending into several months for complete recovery.

Managing Symptoms and Secondary Infections

The first line of defence involves basic self-care strategies:

  • Rest: Vital for recovery. Sufficient rest helps the body fight off the virus more efficiently.
  • Hydration: Drinking fluids such as water, herbal teas, and fruit juices reduces fever and soothes throat irritation.
  • Pain Relief: Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and throat gargles can relieve fever, headaches, sore throat, and muscle aches.

Antibiotics are necessary for those unfortunate enough to develop secondary bacterial infections such as strep throat, sinusitis, or tonsillitis. However, care must be taken with medication choices, as drugs like amoxicillin and other penicillin-based antibiotics can provoke rashes in mono-infected patients, often mistaken for an allergic reaction.

Home Remedies and Lifestyle Adjustments

Aside from medical interventions, home remedies and lifestyle adjustments play a crucial role:

  • Diet: Consuming antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory foods boosts the immune system. Incorporating vegetables, fruits like apples and tomatoes, and sources of healthy fats like olive oil and salmon into meals can be beneficial.
  • Supplements: Supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics may support immune and gut health, while herbs like echinacea and astragalus could offer additional benefits.

While mononucleosis is less contagious than the common cold, its prolonged symptomatic period can lead to extended downtimes. Understanding and applying these comprehensive care strategies can significantly alleviate discomfort and accelerate the path to recovery, making the experience of mono a bit more manageable.