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Is your college student bringing home mono?

MAYWOOD, Ill. – One of the hallmarks of heading home for winter break is the enormous amount of laundry college students bring home as a present for mom and dad. But the dirty socks might not be the only unwelcome guest they transport home. They might also bring mononucleosis, better known as mono.

“Mono is often called the ‘kissing disease’ because it’s transmitted from person to person through saliva. But kissing is not the only way to contract mono. It can be spread by sharing drinks or food utensils. Since it occurs mostly in adolescents between the ages of 15 and 24, it’s a common illness for many college students,” said Khalilah Babino, DO, an immediate care physician at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Usual symptoms for mono include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands, especially toward the back of the neck
  • Headache
  • Poor appetite
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Rash

“Mono symptoms can be similar to those of strep throat so it’s important to get tested since treatment for these illnesses is different,” Babino said. “Mono is a viral illness and can’t be treated with antibiotic. Strep is a bacterial illness that often requires an antibiotic. Testing for both can be done rather quickly in a health-care provider’s office."

Since there are no antiviral medications for mono it is treated by managing the symptoms. This includes:

  • Rest
  • Hydration
  • Acetaminophen or non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medication
  • Or, if breathing problems develop, a prescription

“Fortunately, most symptoms resolve in a few weeks, but fatigue can last several months. Patients should wait until the fever has resolved and fatigue has improved before returning to school or work. Since there is the risk of a rupture of the spleen, most athletes should avoid sports for 3-4 weeks,” Babino said.

The best way to avoid catching and spreading mono is to refrain from sharing beverages and eating utensils and, unfortunately, kissing.

“Even if your college student isn’t showing signs of mono or other infection, winter break is a great time to get him or her in to see the doctor for a checkup,” Babino said.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Media Relations

Evie Polsley
Media Relations
(708) 216-5313
epolsley@lumc.edu
Anne Dillon
Media Relations
(708) 216-8232
adillon@lumc.edu