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The kissing disease: How to deal with glandular fever

This ‘kissing disease’ is nowhere near as much fun as its namesake. Learn how to spot the signs, and what to do if you get it.

Glandular fever, or infectious mononucleosis (mono), is a viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Symptoms are similar to the flu, but can last longer and be more severe.
Young people tend to be most at risk of getting glandular fever, and unfortunately there’s no cure. Symptoms will usually pass without treatment in about 2 to 4 weeks.

The virus is spread from person to person through contact with saliva from people who carry the virus and for that reason is sometimes called the ‘kissing disease’. Some people can carry the virus without knowing it, so it’s best to be safe and avoid sharing unwashed cutlery, cups and plates with others, and cover your mouth with your elbow when you sneeze or cough.

The most common signs of glandular fever are:

  • Sore throat, body aches and headaches
  • Fever of 38C or above
  • Swollen glands
  • Fatigue that may be severe and long-lasting

If you do get glandular fever, there’s no medication to treat it, but here are some things you can do to help to reduce your symptoms and aid your recovery:


During the first month of symptoms, you may feel extremely tired. It’s important to get lots of rest and give your body the time it needs to fight the infection. Light exercise once symptoms subside can help you regain muscle strength. In some cases, the fatigue of glandular fever can last for months afterwards, so it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice on the safest way to return to normal activities.

Drink plenty of fluids and eat a nutrient rich diet

Because the illness involves fever, you need to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.

Painkillers and steroids

Simple analgesia such as Ibuprofen or Paracetamol may help with body aches and fever. You should speak with your doctor, as they may also prescribe a short course of steroids if your tonsils are particularly swollen.


Gargling with salt water may relieve some of the symptoms of a sore throat. Just dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water.

When will I start to feel better?

Glandular fever can take a while to clear up, with symptoms usually beginning to improve within one to two weeks. However, most people recover without any long-term complications.

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