Commonly known as the kissing disease or mono, mononucleosis is a highly contagious infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, a virus from the herpes family that targets lymphocytes and epithelial cells.
In case Mono doesn’t ring a bell, this infection also goes by the name of glandular fever, Pfeiffer’s disease or Filatov’s disease. Read on to know how to treat mononucleosis with simple home remedies.
Generally present in the saliva and mucus, the virus is mostly spread by kissing, sneezing and coughing, or sharing food utensils or straws. However, the virus is not spread by any sort of casual contact, so others can freely live in the same house with an infected person and not catch it.
That said, teens and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 and others with weak immunity are at high risk of contracting the virus.
Also, the virus can lie dormant in a person without causing any symptoms and be transferred to another person, who then develops symptoms.
While the condition is benign, in certain cases it can lead to an acute infection that can result in impairment of the immune system.
Causes of Mono
While Mono is typically associated with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is regarded as its prime causative agent, it may also stem from another member of the herpes simplex virus family: cytomegalovirus (CMV). (1)
This condition is often referred to as the kissing diseases because the culpable virus generally thrives in the saliva of the infected person and is transmitted via kissing.
Apart from kissing, Mono can also spread through any other kind of exposure or contact with the virus carrying spit. This includes sneezing, coughing, sharing of contaminated food utensils and straws.
Moreover, the transmission of this disease can also take place through other bodily fluids such as blood, mucus or semen. Thus, blood transfusions, organ transplants as well as sexual intercourse can all be mediums for spreading the disease.
It's especially hard to keep the virus from spreading because the symptoms of the infection only begin to show after 2-6 weeks of contracting the virus. Thus, there is no way of suspecting that a person is infected until the incubation period of the virus is over, which can often be too late.
Symptoms of Mono
The common symptoms of mono are: (1)
- Fever ranging from 101° to 104°F (38.3° to 40°C) and chills
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Swollen lymph nodes (especially in the neck)
- A sore throat
- Sore muscles
- Swollen tonsils
- A headache or body aches
- Pain in the upper left part of the abdomen (due to enlargement of the spleen)
- Loss of appetite
Prevention of Mono
Averting the risk of mononucleosis is an ongoing struggle since there are no preventive vaccines for this condition yet. Moreover, once infected, the virus tends to persist in your saliva for months even after recovery. Thus, people who are healthy now but have been subjected to this infection in the past continue to pose a threat of virus transmission to other healthy individuals.
- Even after your condition has improved, avoid sharing your personal items, food utensils or indulging in kissing or sexual exchange with non-exposed people that can transmit the virus to them, for several days after complete recovery.
- Similarly, if you are lucky enough to have never faced this ordeal and are virus free, you can keep it that way by not kissing or sharing drinks, food, or personal items, like toothbrushes, with people who have had infectious mononucleosis.
- Moreover, people suffering from this infectious condition are strictly advised to stay off penicillin antibiotics like ampicillin or amoxicillin. It is best to trust your healthcare provider to show you the way when it comes to treating this problem. The doctor will take into account the severity of your symptoms, and subsequently recommend the best course of treatment of specific organ systems affected by infectious mononucleosis.
- One of the symptoms of this condition is the enlargement of your spleen. It is, therefore, best if you steer clear of physically demanding contact sports while you are in the throes of this disease. Exerting such strenuous pressure on your already reeling body can cause the spleen to rupture. If, however, you do suspect that your spleen has been severely damaged which is often indicated by grueling abdominal pain, immediate medical help is called for.
- Some foundational measures that can help mitigate or even relieve the discomforting symptoms of infectious mononucleosis include:
- Increasing your intake of fluids to stay optimally hydrated
- Resting your body as much as you can to help it heal better and faster
- Taking over-the-counter medications to deal with the associated pain and fever
Home Treatment for Mono
Mono usually heals on its own within 2 to 4 weeks. However, once you have had the virus, you can test positive for it for the rest of your life, even after the symptoms resolve.
There is no cure for mono since it’s a viral, not a bacterial infection. The basic treatment for mono involves addressing the symptoms associated with the infection. Below are three effective and natural remedies to treat mononucleosis symptoms.
Method 1: Use Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is one of the most effective remedies for treating mononucleosis and its symptoms. (2)
The oil contains lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid which is swiftly absorbed by the body and converted into monolauric acid, an effective antiviral molecule that helps prevent the virus that causes the infection. (2)
Moreover, coconut oil contains incredible antibacterial properties, antifungal and healing properties owing to its rich and vibrant nutrient composition, that help accelerate the recovery process of the body.
Single-Step Treatment: Consume coconut oil directly
- Take 2 tablespoons of extra virgin coconut oil daily, in the morning and evening. You can take it with yogurt for better results.
- You can also add extra virgin coconut oil to your salads or use it as a medium for cooking your food.
Alternatively, you can purchase coconut oil gel capsules from your local health food store.
Method 2: Use Vitamin C
A water-soluble vitamin, an antioxidant and an effective immune-booster, vitamin C is an essential component of a mono treatment regimen that helps support your immune system to speed up the recovery time. Similarly, vitamin C can also provide relief in a whooping cough.
A micronutrient essential for good health, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) performs a number of biological functions in the body. This includes synthesis of collagen, carnitine, and neurotransmitters; acting as a co-factor for a number of enzymes; boosting metabolism; accelerating wound healing; and supporting nervous system functions and immune cell health.
You can use vitamin C to treat mono in some simple ways.
- Some food sources that are rich in vitamin C include lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, kiwis, pineapples, blackberries, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, and Swiss chard.
- Depending upon the severity of the symptoms, you may opt for vitamin C supplements.
- The recommended daily intake of vitamin C is 1 to 2 grams (1,000 to 2,000 milligrams), every 3 to 4 hours. When the symptoms subside in 1 or 2 weeks, reduce the dose to a total of 1,000 mg daily.
Method 3: Use Astragalus
Astragalus is an herb popularly used in traditional Chinese medicine for treating viral infections such as cold and flu due to its immune-boosting effects. This compounded by the adaptogen property of astragalus suggests that this herb might have the potential for fighting this particular Epstein-Barr virus as well. Furthermore, this therapeutic agent can also help to rejuvenate the body by giving your energy levels a much-needed push. (5)
- Mix a handful of dried astragalus root slices in a quart of water.
- Bring the solution to a boil it, and then let it simmer for 30 minutes.
- Strain and drink this tea two times a day.
- You can also get your dose of astragalus through a supplement, but only after consulting your doctor about its adequacy for your particular condition and health history.
Method 4: Stay Hydrated
Increasing your fluid intake while experiencing symptoms like fever are highly recommended. You may increase your daily water intake, consume warm water to soothe your throat, or even add apple cider vinegar to the water for added benefits.
The acidity of apple cider vinegar delivers natural antioxidant properties while flushing away toxins and cleansing the back of the throat. As a part of the mono treatment regime, apple cider vinegar provides the body with a variety of vitamins and minerals that help eliminate the mononucleosis infection and improve immunity.
Single-Step Treatment: Drink plenty of fluids
- Pour 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into a glass of warm water. Stir well.
- Drink the concoction twice each day to ease symptoms and accelerate recovery.
Tips to get relief from mononucleosis
- While treating mono, it is important to get lots of rest, even during the daytime. The more rest, the better and the faster you’ll recover.
- If you have strep throat, gargle with warm salt water throughout the day.
- Drink plenty of fluids to flush out toxins and give your immune system the strength it needs to fight mononucleosis.
- Quit smoking until you completely heal, as smoking can make your symptoms worse.
- Moisten your throat frequently by sucking on a piece of candy or a popsicle.
- Take over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil) to reduce your fever and relieve throat pain and soreness.
- Do not give aspirin to someone below 19 years of age, as it can cause Reye’s syndrome, a serious illness.
- Epstein-Barr Virus and Infectious Mononucleosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/epstein-barr/about-mono.html. Published May 8, 2018.
- Coconut Oil and Medium-Chain Triglycerides. Coconut Research Center. https://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/articles-and-videos/coconut-information/coconut-oil-and-medium-chain-triglycerides/default.htm. Published 2003.
- High-dose Intravenous Vitamin C as a Successful Treatment of Viral Infections. laleva.org. http://www.laleva.org/eng/2015/11/high-dose_intravenous_vitamin_c_as_a_successful_treatment_of_viral_infections.html. Published November 9, 2015.
- Mikirova NA, Hunninghake R. Effect of high dose vitamin C on Epstein-Barr viral infection. Medical science monitor: international medical journal of experimental and clinical research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4015650/. Published May 3, 2014.
- Guo Q, Sun X, Zhang Z, et al. The effect of Astragalus polysaccharide on the Epstein-Barr virus lytic cycle. Acta virologica. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24717032. Published 2014.
Summary of How to Treat Mononucleosis
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