Infectious mononucleosis, commonly known as mono or the kissing disease, is primarily transmitted through the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) which is primarily spread through saliva. While kissing is a common mode of transmission, sharing utensils or glasses with an infected person can also spread the virus. However, mono is less contagious compared to some other infections like the common cold.

Symptoms of mononucleosis are most commonly experienced by teenagers and young adults, while young children often show few symptoms, and the infection may go unnoticed.

For those diagnosed with mono, it’s vital to be cautious of potential complications such as an enlarged spleen. Rest and staying hydrated are crucial for a successful recovery.


Signs and symptoms of mononucleosis may manifest as follows:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sore throat, potentially initially mistaken for strep throat and not improving with antibiotic treatment
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and armpits
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Soft, swollen spleen
  • Skin rash

The Epstein-Barr virus typically has an incubation period of about four to six weeks, although it might be shorter in young children. The incubation period represents the time between exposure to the virus and the onset of symptoms. While symptoms like fever and sore throat often subside within a couple of weeks, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and an enlarged spleen may persist for several more weeks.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms and they don’t improve within a week or two, it’s recommended to seek advice from your doctor.


Mononucleosis is most frequently caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, although other viruses can produce comparable symptoms. The transmission of this virus occurs through saliva, making it possible to contract through kissing or sharing food and drinks.

While the symptoms of mononucleosis can be uncomfortable, the infection typically resolves on its own without causing long-term effects. In most cases, adults have already been exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus, developing antibodies that confer immunity and protect them from contracting mononucleosis.

Risk factors

There are two notable periods during which individuals contract Epstein-Barr virus (EBV): in early school-age children and again during adolescence/young adulthood. Young children frequently exhibit no symptoms, while teenagers and individuals in their 20s are more susceptible to developing mononucleosis. Approximately 1 in 4 individuals within this age range who contract EBV experience mono, although it can affect anyone, regardless of their age.