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Mononucleosis Factsheet (for Schools)

What Teachers Should Know

Mononucleosis, or mono, is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a common virus that most kids are exposed to at some point while growing up. Infants and young kids infected with EBV usually have very mild symptoms or none at all. But teens and young adults who become infected often develop mono symptoms. The flu-like symptoms caused by mono usually go away on their own after a few weeks of rest.

Mono (sometimes called the "kissing disease") is spread through kissing, coughing, sneezing, and any contact with the saliva of a contagious person — such as sharing a straw, drinking glass, eating utensil, or toothbrush.

Mono symptoms include fever, sore throat with swollen tonsils, fatigue, weakness, and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms are often mistaken for strep throat or the flu.

Other symptoms include:

  • headache
  • sore muscles
  • lack of appetite
  • skin rash
  • abdominal pain

Students with mono might need to:

  • be absent from school for several weeks
  • have homework and assignments sent home and tests rescheduled
  • avoid gym class and sports until they get clearance from a doctor (the virus can cause the spleen to enlarge, creating a risk of rupture )
  • modify their school day due to fatigue or other symptoms

What Teachers Can Do

Mono needs to run its course naturally. Symptoms usually last 2 to 4 weeks, and some students feel tired for several weeks longer.

If students with mono are absent for a long period of time, try to find ways for them to keep up with assignments so they don't fall behind and feel overwhelmed when they return to school.

Teachers can help prevent the spread of infections in their classrooms by:

  • encouraging students to wash their hands with soap and water often
  • reminding them to always cough or sneeze into their elbow or a tissue, not their hands
  • reminding them to not share drinks, straws, eating utensils, toothbrushes, or similar personal items

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date Reviewed: Nov 19, 2019

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