I've got mono. What now?
April 5, 2007 6:34 PM   Subscribe

MononucleosisFilter: I just got diagnosed with mono. My doctor says I will be pretty much incapacitated for the next three weeks or so. I have a few questions that the doc didn't really satisfy, and I thought I'd see if some Mefites could share their experience...

Forgive my poor writing in this post, the fever is melting my brain a bit. Here are my questions:

1. I have a very low-stress (read: easy) job, which I think I would be able to perform even in my current fatigued state. I don't want to infect my coworkers, especially my germaphobic boss who has been known to regularly saturate her office with lysol spray. The doc says there's no reason to quarantine myself, but really, how infectious am I? Should I go back to work and try to quell the fears of the people around me, or should I just stay home?

2. Coach me on fighting this thing. Specifically what do you recommend I should eat and drink? There are no prescriptions for mono, but what medicines can I take to help the symptoms?

3. What am I gonna do for the next three weeks while I'm vegetating on the couch? I'm thinking a "Planet of the Apes" movie marathon. Got any ideas to keep this illness from completely wasting nearly a month of my life?
posted by buriednexttoyou to Health & Fitness (55 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Answers to questions 1 and 3:

Either you don't have a bad case of mono (entirely possible), or you have NO IDEA what you're in for.

If your experience becomes anything like mine was, at some point, and for at least a week or so, you will not work. You will not watch movies. You will sleep. You will wake up from sleep still tired, and you will watch a little bit of television maybe. You will not shower for a few days at a time, because the energy it takes to stand up that long is just too much.

Seriously, I walked at the speed of a 90-year-old man. My girlfriend thought I had to be faking walking that slow. But really, it was the only pace I could maintain without having to stop to rest after ten steps. It took about 10 minutes to walk from my bedroom to the dorm kitchen.

Your month will be gone, get used to it. (Unless it's not. I have been told not everyone gets a really bad case, and some people don't have a hard time of it at all. That wasn't me, though.)

Answer to question 2:

There's nothing you can take. But make sure you drink, a lot. Your throat will feel terrible, and try to talk you out of drinking because it hurts to swallow. Don't listen to your throat.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 6:48 PM on April 5, 2007

1. Pessimistic and anecdotal: You may not have a choice about going to work. I had mono in my late teens, and I was completely incapacitated for several weeks. I couldn't walk (I clearly recall crawling to the bathroom on my hands and knees) and was delirious much of the time. (I gather this is not typical, though. YMMV.*)

2. Stay hydrated. If you want to, take your favourite antipyretic (e.g. acetaminphen, aspirin.) Gargling with soluble aspirin can help with the inevitable sore throat.

3. The Count of Monte Cristo. Middlemarch. Far from the Madding Crowd. Every episode of the X-Files. Except you may not be able to do much of anything.

* My mother told me after I recovered that she thought I was going to die. Sort of a weird thing to hear.
posted by buxtonbluecat at 6:59 PM on April 5, 2007

1. As I recall, if people will avoid eating or drinking or swapping body fluids with you, they'll be okay. Most people actually have had mono when they were small children, and never knew it, and are now immune anyway. (This will probably be no comfort to your boss).

2. Advil. Ice cream/sherbet/sorbet. I wasn't very hungry at all when I had it.

3. Maybe age plays a part in how hard it hits, but don't assume you'll be incapacitated. Many people really aren't. I was eighteen when I got it, and my throat hurt a bit and I ran a slight fever (101) sometimes and didn't eat much, but I was fine to do almost everything. Just avoid contact sports, because your spleen could swell up and a good hit to the right area would be dangerous. Otherwise, do as much as you feel like.

It really may not be as bad as you expect. The only reason I even went to the doctor was that the glands in my neck had swollen up to size of walnuts - otherwise I would have written it off as "annoying stuff related to spring allergies". The guy I caught it from who had caught it from his other girlfriend was hit pretty hard for a while.
posted by dilettante at 7:02 PM on April 5, 2007

Ditto kingjoeschmoe. I was convinced that the sunlight itself was draining my energy so I covered all the windows in my apartment with dark sheets and hibernated for about two weeks. Sure, stock up on movies, books, magazines, etc., but nothing you care anything about remembering. I spaced out to films like Koyaanisqatsi and Kurosawa's Dreams.

Try to stock up on lots of different types of fluids (h2o, chicken soup, gatorade, popsicles) because you may get bored with any one kind.
posted by cocoagirl at 7:06 PM on April 5, 2007

1. You may be in for a month of hell, or you may have something like a bad case of the flu. When I caught it at 17, I had one week of a bad headache and one week of respiratory symptoms. I only skipped 2 days of class. But I had friends who missed 1 or 2 months of school entirely because of mono, and who had to be carried (teenagers!) to the bathroom because they were too weak to walk there themselves. * No, I did not infect these people, I promise.

2. Treat your symptoms with whatever OTC drugs you favor. Eat as well as you can (proteins, vegetables) to keep your strength up.

3. If you're well enough to feel bored by your time off, you're probably well enough to go to work, if they'll let you be there.

on preview: I think dilettante and I caught mono from the same guy. greetings, germ-buddy!
posted by junkbox at 7:10 PM on April 5, 2007

As a data point, I started being symptomatic of my case of mono *during* my Private Pilot flight test at the age of 19. I felt fine at takeoff, and had a 103 degree fever when I landed. (I passed, btw). The flight examiner took one look at be during debriefing and said he didn't think he was that tough on me (heh, funny guy), and I said I didn't feel well at all, maybe I was coming down with something. I called the flying club and asked them to send someone over to pick me up as I didn't feel well enough to fly the plane back.

I spent the next solid month in the hospital at Fort Gordon. By the time they let me go, I was as weak and atrophied as I've ever been in my life, to the point where they put me on a 30-day convalescent leave, which I spent at my grandparents' in Florida. My grandmother was horrified at my appearance, and made it her mission in life to make me eat the entire contents of a Publix supermarket while I was there.
posted by pjern at 7:22 PM on April 5, 2007

Everyone's correct. I've had mono twice. Once it was mild-- no biggie. I missed some school, watched some movies, hydrated and was cool. The second time I was utterly incapacitated. My experience was akin to what kingjoeshmoe described. I remember being winded and tired after pouring myself juice.

Bottom line: listen to your body. If your body feels ok, act accordingly but take it down a notch or two given the diagnosis of mono. Take time off work to recuperate. Better to miss some of your low-stress job while you get better now, then miss a lot more later because you rushed yourself back to your normal activities and got way sicker.

And, as per usual, drink lotsa fluids.

They did tell you no rough-housing, right? No sports, no play wrestling, etc.? That spleen of yours could blow at any moment. Just kidding, but I wanted to say that. Seriously, be gentle and careful with your body while you heal.
posted by sneakin at 7:27 PM on April 5, 2007

Mono sucks. A lot. You will not want to eat much, instead drink lots of juice. Make someone go out and buy you a weeks supply of juice. Or, do it yourself while you are still feeling fine. Try not to buy orange juice, because it will agitate your throat. Juice will give you more energy and vitamins than water.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 7:27 PM on April 5, 2007

As people have said, depends on how bad the mono is. I know two people who've had it, and from what I read here, it doesn't seem like they had it nearly as badly. One was able to continue semi-regularly with her job as a room-cleaner in a hotel (had to go home a few times, but mostly made it through), and the other lead a pretty much regular life, but with a lot more sleep.

If you go back into work, as long as you don't kiss your co-workers, or use the same cutlery/mugs etc., you should be ok. I believe those are the common ways that it spreads.
posted by djgh at 7:29 PM on April 5, 2007

Gaaah. Correction: 1. As I recall, if people will avoid eating or drinking after you or swapping body fluids with you...

And junkbox - that one got around enough that I had to stop myself asking quite seriously whether the name in your profile was your real name or where you were from, in preparation for gleeful mockery of the ex from long ago. (And correction 2: one of his other girlfriends).
posted by dilettante at 7:29 PM on April 5, 2007

I had one of the worst cases of mono that either my doctor or my parents (a doctor and a nurse) had ever seen, and it's because I tried going to school for half days the first week. I never really had the fatigue that everyone seems to describe, but after the first weekend, I was completely incapacitated with a high fever and a throat so swollen that the two sides touched each other in the middle. That said:

1) You're not contagious, *unless* you get a super infection. I managed to get a case of strep throat on top of the mono, and that was contagious. The mono itself, however, was not; in fact, 95% of the population age 30+ carries the virus, whereas only 1/3 of the population ever contracts mono.

2) When my throat was so swollen, the only thing I could swallow without intense pain was cool cubed cheese. Swallowing water or anything mushy would cause my throat to rub against itself and thus hurt; cubed cheese for some reason was both nourishing and pain free.

3) Boxed sets of television shows. Preferably serialized dramas e.g. The West Wing, Buffy, Alias, etc.
posted by awesomebrad at 7:35 PM on April 5, 2007

Stay away from people who might be sick! When I got mono, I got antibiotic resistant strep throat (which turned into strep EARS) within a week. That was the truly awful part. Delirious with fever... during finals. The co-infections are the real killers with mono. I think that's why you're supposed to stay out of the general population for a while- your immune system sucks.
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:35 PM on April 5, 2007

Response by poster: "The guy I caught it from who had caught it from his other girlfriend was hit pretty hard for a while."

That brings up another question... how did I get this? My girlfriend doesn't have it (although I may have infected her if I had it a couple days ago. Yes, she knows and is watching herself for symptoms), and I'm not in the habit of kissing anyone else. Maybe from an unclean glass or something? Has anyone here just randomly gotten mono as I seemingly have? And how long after getting better do I have to worry about infecting people?
posted by buriednexttoyou at 7:45 PM on April 5, 2007

Well for what it's worth, I contracted mono when I was 16 (22 years ago) and instead of following the advice of resting and all of that, I worked through it.

For a while.

Basically I became so run down after 4 weeks that I could only manage 8 hours out of every 24 to be awake. honestly, it knocks the shit out of you and there isn't really much you can do. Try to eat a good amount of healthy foods (no fast food crap) and take a vitamin B-12 supplement. Above all else, during the onset phase, get PLENTY of rest and let your body defend itself naturally.
posted by jtoth at 7:48 PM on April 5, 2007

I had it, but much less severely than above. Very low energy and easily fatigued is what I remember. But though the symptoms weren't catastrophic, the worst part was that it hung around for 6 - 8 weeks.

And maybe I am wrong, but I was pretty sure that once you get it, you can't get it again.
posted by vronsky at 7:50 PM on April 5, 2007

Depending on how sick you are and how much you can rely on other people with whom you live, this still is probably not helpful, but:

I had mono shortly after I adopted two kittens. I spent a lot of time at my computer (mostly working from home) with a kitten or two in my lap and/or on my desk, and a lot of time in bed with kittens nearby. We bonded a lot. It was great (that part anyway). I think I had a pretty mild case, though, and I didn't have to worry too much about rolling over onto a kitten in my sleep.

Anyway, could be a great time to bond with new pets. But if you live alone, you could well be too sick to take care of them and/or play with them.

If you already have a pet, though, could be great. Sort of.
posted by amtho at 7:51 PM on April 5, 2007

Has anyone here just randomly gotten mono as I seemingly have?

Not totally randomly, but I somehow picked it up from my sister, despite being very careful about glasses/utensils/whatever. On the other hand, neither her boyfriend nor my girlfriend caught it. I personally wouldn't go in to work, just to be safe.
posted by equalpants at 8:15 PM on April 5, 2007

how infectious am I?

My college roommate had mono and I didn't catch it from her, even though I spent lots of time keeping her company while she was sick and we lived in the same room.
posted by paddingtonb at 8:28 PM on April 5, 2007

3) i suggest sitting in bed watching "Legally Blonde" on a laptop. and crying and crying and crying and crying. lord knows, that's what i did.

i mean, really, that scene when all the other law students are throwing a party and they say that it's a costume party and reese witherspoon shows up in a costume and it turns out it's not a costume party at all? when i had mono, that was the most heartbreaking thing i'd ever seen.

maybe that's not useful advice. i'm sorry.
posted by wreckingball at 8:38 PM on April 5, 2007 [4 favorites]

I had a relatively mild case. I pretty much slept for 3 days straight, and after that, was only mildly tired for the next week or so. After the initial hibernation, I went to classes, work, etc. IIRC, mono is passed through fluid exchange, so unless your sharing drinks or kissing your co-workers, there's very little risk of passing it on.

Just listen to what your body tells you, drink lots of fluids, and make yourself eat something periodically. It'll pass.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:46 PM on April 5, 2007

I ignored my case (also when I was in my late teens).

Instead of 2-3 weeks....it took me around nine to get over it.

So, take it easy, even if it feels like you can do more.
posted by filmgeek at 9:20 PM on April 5, 2007

I had mono my senior year of high school. I was studying with a friend and suddenly started to not feel well. I hardly ever missed school but said, "I don't think I'm going to be able to go tomorrow." I was out for almost a month and had to be home-schooled by a representative from the district. Even still, I only managed to "work" an hour a day. As I understand it, mine was a relatively mild case. Another classmate had a milder case than me, and went to school and pretty much slept through every class until someone found out he had mono and made him stay home and rest. A different classmate was out for six weeks. I'm not sure how I got it, and my boyfriend at the time never got sick.

1. I don't think you'll really be infecting anyone at this point; IIRC they would already have gotten infected by you, but don't go sharing anything just in case. Some people might take offense to your showing up anyway (one of my coworkers likes to announce in a loud voice every time someone comes in when they aren't feeling well that this is why we have sick leave). If your boss is a germaphobe, I wouldn't push your luck. Seriously though, I really don't think you'll be working. I didn't leave the house the entire month and my main activity was sleeping and attempting to get down fluids. Maybe you could telecommute, but I wouldn't be surprised if you can't get anything done.

2. I don't recall any medicines to fight the symptoms (maybe some sort of throat spray/numbing thing? I think I recall gargling salt water), and I ate/drank a lot of liquidy things. My mother made me chicken noodle soup (which, by the way, I promptly fell asleep with my head on the kitchen table after eating. One minute I was upright, the next I was out), jello, pudding, mashed potatoes, ice cream, juice, water, etc. I HATED eating because it hurt so much and sometimes I would start crying when she tried to get me to eat. I lost 5-8% of my body weight.

3. You'll be sleeping. I pretty much lived on the couch and only really watched two movies the entire month (I kept falling asleep so it was hard to make it through them. I think if you had DVD's of tv shows, that might be good since they're only like 20 minutes each). My mom would sometimes bring me a magazine, which was good because the articles were so short that I could read one and then rest. Basically, anything that doesn't need your attention for a long span of time should be fine. My day went something like this: Wake up, make my way downstairs and try to eat. Get tired and end up on couch. Sleep. Wake up around lunch and try to eat. Back to sleep. Wake up around 4 and watch a few minutes of tv, go back to sleep. Wake up around 6 and eat dinner and dictate a class assignment to my father (seriously, was too tired to sit at a computer and type!), go back to sleep. Repeat.

I think if you go into it knowing what to expect, you'll fare much better. I hope you get well soon and that it isn't too rough on you!
posted by ml98tu at 9:45 PM on April 5, 2007

I had mono when I was 19. I had no energy and did nothing but throw up for the first few days. My throat was so sore and swollen that they gave me vicodin. I don't remember it working all that well.

I finally knew I was feeling better when one day I just *had* to have McDonalds. But it was weeks before I got to that point.

I had three roommates at the time and none of them caught it.
posted by whatideserve at 9:49 PM on April 5, 2007

nth-ing all that. I got it totally randomly (either that, or my gf at the time was totally asymptomatic) at age 19. Not badly - in fact it took the damned doctors 3 weeks to figure out what I had, because my white cell count was near normal (after my 4th blood test my regular doctor was unavailable, so I saw a locum who took one look at me and my results and said "you've got glandular fever; take 3 weeks off"). I'd already had so much time off because of it - 2 days here, a day there - that I had a week off straight then worked through the rest.

20 years later, I sometimes think it's still affecting me.
posted by Pinback at 10:11 PM on April 5, 2007

Random data point: A roommate in college had Mono (it was hard to tell since he normally slept 12 hours a day, instead it was 16-20). Anyway, we had a finite set of eating utensils and even with the cursory washing we did, neither of us other two roommates got sick. I'll attest to the fact that he wasn't kissing anyone at the time, so who knows where he got it from.
posted by 0xFCAF at 10:14 PM on April 5, 2007

1. If you feel up to it, you can go to work on good days. If you're not, you simply won't want to go. You're not infectious to your coworkers.

2. Just regular food. Be careful not to snack too much just because you're not doing anything else.

3. Sleep. You'll have moments where you decide that you want to start something, and open a book or DVD case, but promptly fall asleep again. Sometimes you puke and whine a bit.

Also, I had mono when I was nine (implied: not kissing anyone). Nobody else I knew was sick, and I have no clue where it came from. (I probably did share cups with people, but still, nobody else was sick. Maybe from a restaurant?)
posted by easternblot at 10:23 PM on April 5, 2007

I got it my freshman year of college. Mine was pretty mild -- a few more mid day naps than normal, sore throat, swollen glands. I think I even recovered fairly quickly, but it took a while for my appetite to come back. That was actually the weirdest part for me -- I simply wasn't hungry for days at a time.

And then, right as I was starting to feel better, I got an ear infection. That was almost as bad as the mono.

As for how I got it, my boyfriend at the time didn't have it, but one of his friends who lived down the hall did come down with it a little before me. I think it made the rounds to a few other people we hung out with as well, but he wasn't kissing anyone else. We figured he'd just shared a drink with the wrong person.
posted by natabat at 10:43 PM on April 5, 2007

3. Ken Burns documentaries
posted by asuprenant at 11:10 PM on April 5, 2007

for 3) go buy Scrubs season 1, great show and you can put it on play all for a whole 8-10 episode dvd.

my mono was relatively mild but i would stress not to rush yourself back. I was determined I was fine and I could play basketball after just starting to recover from about 3 weeks of being sick and ended up puking and gasping for breath on my friend's porch.

So yea, take it easy even when you start feeling a little better.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:13 PM on April 5, 2007

A dear friend had it in his senior year of high school and made the decision to attend school through it. It took him ages to get over it (I want to say 4 months), he constantly slept through classes, and he barely passed his classes for most of the year. The only reason his college admission wasn't rescinded (he thought) was that a friend of his family was somewhere high up in the administration of his school.

Just take some time off to get better. I don't think anyone who's ever had mono, or known anyone who had mono, would fault you for it.
posted by crinklebat at 12:54 AM on April 6, 2007

1. Do yourself a favour and just take the time off. I had it when I was fifteen and pushed myself back to school after taking about three weeks off, despite still feeling like crap. I still get days now where all I want to do is sleep. Consider it an invesment in your ongoing health. You're better off sacrificing a few weeks now than feeling like crap for a decade after.

2. I drank a lot of water, but what kept me alive I think was the litres of honey-sweetened lemon tea I drank a day. I had no throat problems at all, so when the mood took me (which was rare) I could eat without any hassles.

3. My siblings brought homework to me, and man is it some of the trippiest shit I've ever written. I must have been delierous, because the sentences just run together and it reminds me no end of some of the outsider poetry I've read written by those with a relaxed grasp on reality. I have absolutly no recollections of my first week at home, to the point where I don't even remember coming down with it. After that it's patchy, and the best thing I can recall is making paper dolls and dressing them, but it would really be a shoe at a time. I slept for three weeks, really. Even when I went back to school I zoned out a lot.

I'll add my voice to the chorus that suggests you grab yourself some box sets of TV series and be prepared to forget them afterwards. Of course, you could also try and make some paper dolls...
posted by Jilder at 1:22 AM on April 6, 2007

My good friend and college roommate contracted mono almost immediately after finals, during the week between the end of school and summer research. As I recall, she wanted to get a lot of sleep (which didn't seem that weird, considering the hell week we'd just gone through), and her throat started swelling up. We thought it was strep, in fact.

I never got mono even though we spent every day together, and even shared, um, glassware a few days before the diagnosis.

HOWEVER, she didn't do ANYTHING that week except eat (when she could), nap, and watch movies. I bet she would have gotten a lot worse if she had tried to work, etc.
posted by muddgirl at 5:06 AM on April 6, 2007

Get some Chloraseptic in case you need it for your throat. When you use it, make sure you're actually target-shooting the back of your throat and not just spraying it somewhere in your mouth and swallowing (numb tongue ew). You may want to buy a couple of the small bottles instead of the big one, they are much easier to aim, and if I have trouble with the big bottle just with a bad elbow, you'll have worse trouble if you have the muscle weakness.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:52 AM on April 6, 2007

I had mono during the second semester of my freshman year in college. Like some others that have commented, I kept going to classes for the first week or so because I was terrified of falling behind. Pretty soon I got so sick that I passed out walking to the bathroom one morning and figured I'd better get myself to a doctor. By that point just walking from my dorm to the health center - a distance of about four blocks - was almost insurmountably difficult. I remember leaning against buildings every few feet and trying not to pass out again. I had to withdraw from my classes, and ended up in bed for about five or six weeks.

What others have said about tiredness not being the issue at first was also true of my experience - it was mainly a fever and a lot of throat-related symptoms. All of that got much worse over the course of about two weeks, and then it was just a crushing fatigue the likes of which I'd never known. If you can believe it, I felt too tired to watch television. I'd leave it on anyway, but the bulk of my days were spent sleeping or just lying in bed with my eyes closed. I often had to crawl to the bathroom at first.

The only thing I tried that made my throat feel a little bit better was ibuprofen, but it didn't help as much as I would have liked. I remember breaking down in tears at one point because I was so thirsty but it hurt so much to swallow that I didn't want to drink anything. (I drank a lot of water anyway.)

Incidentally, for about four years after I had mono I came down with a remarkable number of lesser throat-related illnesses. Many bouts of strep throat, tonsilitis, bronchitis, and it seemed like every time I got so much as a cold it turned into something horrible involving my throat. I don't know if this was related to having mono or not, though.
posted by emmastory at 6:27 AM on April 6, 2007

I had mono when I was 21. I had sort of a weird case in that my symptoms were extremely severe for about a week and a half and then *poof* I felt better. So much better that less than a month later I did a three week NOLS course horsepacking in Wyoming.

Anyway, during the time that I felt bad, I felt really bad. I had never been that sick in my life and I hope I never am again. My throat was so swollen that I had to be put on oral steroids so I could swallow. I probably slept 20 hours a day. Everything made me tired. Trying to watch TV on the couch for an hour left me exhausted. It was awful, but I seem to have recovered much faster than a lot of others here.

My suggestions for you: find a restaurant you like that will deliver soup. I pretty much lived on wonton soup broth for a couple weeks. Make sure you have a couple comfortable places in your house to sleep. Force yourself to drink lots of water/fluids. Good luck. I hope you feel better soon.
posted by fancypants at 6:33 AM on April 6, 2007

I second everything everyone said here, and can add one thing....when I had it, the only thing I could drink was apple juice, because it didn't leave any sort of funk in my mouth afterwards (milk leaves that sort of slime, the water where I grew up was always too "chloriney," and the bubbles in soda hurt my throat). That was 15 years ago, and I still can't drink apple juice without my throat hurting. YMMV, but just a thought.
posted by nevercalm at 6:33 AM on April 6, 2007

IANAD, however when I had mono my freshman year in college I was reading a book called Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea. In the book the author describes his own self-medication when he had mono, which essentially consisted of taking about 20,000 mg of Vitamin C a day and it helped him get over mono super quick. (that's my best recollection of the amount, if you decide to do this I would verify that). Anywho, after reading that I started taking Vitamin C (in the form of Emergen-C packets) and if I remember correctly I was taking about 10,000 mg a day (10 packs or so). In my case it really helped, I started to feel better after a few days and was able to resume a fairly normal schedule after about a week (after basically being laid up and unable to do more than sleep a lot before that). By week three I was about 99%. There are some undesirable side effects of taking too much Vitamin C, but at the level I was taking it was never an issue for me. So there you go, my suggestion is lots of Vitamin C.
posted by uva_nupe at 6:34 AM on April 6, 2007

I got mono year before last. I was 32 at the time. It was the sickest I've probably ever been in my life. Totally wiped me out. As I understand it, the older you are, the harder it hits you. You'll sleep tons, like everyone else said.

I was really sick for about 2 or 3 weeks then felt better, then like fancypants, about a month after I felt better it hit me again and took me down for another week or so.

After that, though, all has been fine. Sleep tons. Take Motrin. Watch TV if you can, sure. Pretty much just rest.

Good luck.
posted by MrToad at 7:04 AM on April 6, 2007

That brings up another question... how did I get this?

awesomebrad has it: 95% of the population age 30+ carries the virus, whereas only 1/3 of the population ever contracts mono.

Meaning you get it when your immune system is weaker than usual, from one of the majority of people who walk around carrying mono and never contracting it.

(Anecdotally, I think this explains the seemingly random case of mono I caught when I'd been living in a new town for three weeks with a roommate who wasn't around much and hadn't even made any friends yet: I was stressed and tired from moving and starting school and caught it from casual contact with someone random.)
posted by clavicle at 7:19 AM on April 6, 2007

I got it when I was 16, and it sounds like I got off super easy. I took two days off from school, but it was more because I had a convenient excuse than because I really felt tired enough to need it. Maybe I was just so used to fatigue from sleeping only 4-5 hours a night that I couldn't tell the difference. My main symptom was grossly swollen lymph nodes - "Mom, my neck is all lumpy and weird!" is what prompted the visit to the doctor. I think I remember my throat being sore too, but nothing like what others here have described.

I'm sure you've already checked, but just in case, you might find the wikipedia articles on Epstein-Barr Virus and Mono to be helpful. The second one especially addresses the varying severity, levels of contagiousness, and symptom treatment.
posted by vytae at 7:20 AM on April 6, 2007

nthing what everyone else has said about taking it easy. I thought I was getting better, pushed myself too hard, and relapsed. I think it was one trip to the gym that made me relapse, in fact. I was so exhausted the second time around that I had to take naps on my crawlpath from the bathroom to my bed--less than 25 feet. And I was never bored--I was plenty happy to just lie in bed and watch the tree outside my window. It was kind of metatative, actually. On the upside, this was my junior year of college and I got the best grades I've ever gotten, because the only things I did were go to class and read. And despite the fact I barely moved, I lost 25-30 pounds from the not eating.

You could also explore every corner of the internet.

I also have no idea where I got it--I think it must have been from dirty silver/glasses, but I don't know.

One thing I haven't seen anyone else mention, which is why I'm bothering to post, is that mono affects your liver and spleen. You need to be very careful about what you put into your body. Do not take antibiotics and do not drink alcohol. You may even want to talk to your doctor about what OTC meds are okay to take, and in what amounts, because your body's ability to process is severely compromised. According to traditional Chinese medicine, apple cider is good for your liver, so you might want to drink a glass or two a day.

Mono definitely affected my health long-term--I didn't feel completely back to normal for a couple of years afterwards, I found I got sick more often for a good 5 years afterwards, and it's permanently changed my sleep habits. I have a much easier time falling asleep and I never get insomnia anymore.

Take it easy, and I hope your case is not as bad as mine! Feel better!
posted by min at 7:34 AM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm yet another case of "yeah, I had that, and it kicked my ass"...

The older you are, the harder it hits you... I was 22 and ended up being away from work for a full 2+ months. I'm a unique case, as I ended up with a lot of complications afterwards (relapse of swollen lymph nodes and fatigue, etc)... This probably won't happen to you.

What may:
- Intense sore throat
- Swollen throat to the point that swallowing is insanely painful. This is gross, but keep a cup around to capture saliva... For whatever reason, I salivated a TON and it was so painful to swallow i just started spitting (well, at my energy level drooling) into a cup.
- Swollen and tender/painful lymph nodes
- Incredible fatigue like you've never experienced before
- You may catch strep throat, which is very common in mono sufferers

To answer your questions:

1) do not go back to work until you're feeling better. Mono isn't horrendously contagious (requires exchange of bodily fluids), but working through it is a really bad idea. This is not "flu" or a cold or something you can "tough your way through." This is a serious affliction that, while not usually life threatening, is absolutely powerful and debilitating.

2) I took no medicines, but you may be prescribed antibiotics to avoid strep. I don't agree with pre-emptive antibiotics, but don't listen to me, I'm not a doctor. Make sure you hydrate yourself well, and have a lot of soup and other easy to cook things handy. Bananas are the cheapest and most healthy thing to eat, and they can be smooshed up and made easier to swallow with your sore throat, so I'd say keep plenty of those around. Apple sauce, jell-o, popsicles etc work too. I'd also recommend those lightly flavored "vitamin water" drinks.

3) I watched a lot of TV, but not any movies I wanted to really understand or remember. Fatigue grips you pretty hard. You've certainly gotta take advantage of being home and watch the Price is Right! I listened to a lot of music, and hooked my PC up to my TV so that winamp visuals could trip me out while i listened... definitely a different experience when you're sick as hell!

Basically, rest a lot and listen to your body. If you're feeling up to playing a video game, for example, fine, get started... but if you start feeling really fatigued in the middle - do not stay awake trying to get to a good stopping point.. just quit and go take a nap.. seriously. Sleep when you need it.

I hope your experience with mono is lightyears better than mine was.. feel better!
posted by twiggy at 7:34 AM on April 6, 2007

you can do your own mononucleosis rpm challenge. I'd love to hear 10 new songs of yours.
posted by micayetoca at 7:39 AM on April 6, 2007

I had it in my early 20s and it was different than everyone is describing, so I'll throw my experience out there. I got sick as a dog every 10 days like clockwork for 6 long, horrible months. I'd feel fine for 10 days and then run a fever, have a terrible sore throat and be unable to function for 3 days and then be fine again for 10 days, lather, rinse, repeat. I managed, through all of this, to go live in Ireland for a month or so, keep a restaurant job and take care of my small child, which may be why it took me so long to get better: I was determined to keep on going with my life through strength of will alone. Eventually I contracted a bad sinus infection that wouldn't go away and the doctor told me to go to bed for two weeks and put me on 30 days of strong antibiotics and lo and behold I got better. It was a rough year, though.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:44 AM on April 6, 2007

Response by poster: Micayetoca, I was thinking the same thing myself! Do you think I should record it in mono? Har har.

I don't know if I can sing, but it might be interesting if I try. I think I'm gonna do it!
posted by buriednexttoyou at 7:48 AM on April 6, 2007

I raged with fever for days and my throat closed up to the point that all I could do was lay there and struggle for breath. Finally I went to the emergency room in a panic, where they tried to convince me it was probably HIV and wrote me a prescription for Tylenol.

I was more or less out of commission entirely for a couple of weeks, and very weak after that for a long time.
posted by hermitosis at 7:59 AM on April 6, 2007

Had it at 22. Had to drop out that semester. Was bedridden for 2 weeks. Tried to get back in the routine too fast and I swear that made me more prone to illness in the following 2 to 3 years (symptoms similar to what people describe as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, same virus). Error on the side of caution and stay in bed as much as you can, even when you start feeling like you can take on the world again. It should go without saying that you should avoid any heavy lifting, strenuous activities, as well.
posted by nimmpau at 8:36 AM on April 6, 2007

I basically did EVERYTHING wrong. I'm pretty sure I got it from playing beer pong right around the time I got the flu my last semester at college. I thought I was better and then went on spring break not knowing I had mono (I kept wondering why I was the only one heading back to the hotel at 11 p.m.).

When I came back I thought I had broken my rib playing drunken egg toss on the beach. Turns out my spleen was just enormous and that's when I was diagnosed. That was enough to scare me off booze for a week, but then I figured if I survived spring break with mono, I could keep drinking as long as I took my B vitamins (who says college students are smart?). I would not recommend this, obviously.

My BF never contracted it even though he spent every night at my place and we continued smooching (again, probably not smart). I didn't give it to any of my four roommates and my spleen never exploded. Mostly I just NEEDED a 3 p.m. nap every single day. Kept going to my classes normally.

Bottom line, the worst part about it was that since my immune system was shot I contracted everything I came in contact with. Pink eye, strep, etc. So be very aware of who's around you and what they have and wash your hands a lot. Continued boozing after getting diagnosed probably didn't help either. Oh to be young and stupid...
posted by awegz at 8:52 AM on April 6, 2007

This sucks! I've never had mono and I could really use a break from work and time to catch up on/watch some tv series (even if I am delusional). What are the chances of me getting mono if I'm in my 30s and married?

Seriously -- good luck with your recovery and lets us know how badly it affected you.
posted by parilous at 9:41 AM on April 6, 2007

Response by poster: Parilous, I'd be happy to FedEx a vile of my spit over to you, if you like.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 10:09 AM on April 6, 2007

Vile indeed.
posted by hermitosis at 10:23 AM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

50% Gatorade/50% Water and Throat Coat tea. Mono also comes in waves, so expect to feel better and then feel worse for no explicable reason for a few months. Avoid heavy lifting and anything else that might cause your spleen to explode.

You might as well take some time off work to feel out if you're over the hump or not. I took a week off and then took the occasional day off after that when I was feeling extra crappy.

There's the theory (?) that some people's chronic fatigue syndrome is caused by mono, since it never really goes away (Think: Throat herpes. Yay!). But whenever I float that one by my doctors, they act like it's impossible. That is to say, two full blown cases of mono would be a pretty big deal, methinks. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that I caught it from my girlfriend who caught it years and years before that and she must have been having a flare up during our big starting out kissy kissy period.
posted by Skwirl at 10:56 AM on April 6, 2007

Just chiming in: My clearest memory of mono was fearing sleep, because I knew I would have to awake to a throat so swollen and damaged that breathing brought tears.

That throat stuff .. jesus. I still have visible scars.

If you get this, you probably won't be able to eat.

Yogurt and hot tea.
More hot tea, with honey.
Like whatideserve mentioned w/ the vicodin: Throw some enterprise-grade painkillers into the mix if you can get 'em. Don't wait until you need them, because by then you'll be mute and in pain.

Find some brainless tasks that occupy you. Doom II pretty much saved me from comitting hari-kari.

Seriously, good luck. May you get a wimpy, sleep-a-lot, gee-I-sure-am-tired-today mono, and not the throat-raping, Hiroshima class mono that I remember and still fear.
posted by bhance at 11:17 AM on April 6, 2007

Mono in my senior year of college, which I ended up repeating a semester.

I slept about 16-20 hours a day, took showers every 4 days, ate a ton of ice cream, and watched all six season of Sex and the City.

The worst part was walking to class on my good days. I had to stop every five minutes and lay down next to the sidewalk to catch my breath. Most students thought I was severly hung over.

The best part of mono is that it's the best weight-loss program out there.
posted by idiotfactory at 11:36 AM on April 6, 2007

I had mono about 16 years ago in my sophomore year of high school and my spleen was so enlarged that it was in danger of rupturing. Spleen pain is... weird... and searing.

I didn't have a sore throat, but I had spleen pain (!) and liver pain and all of my glands were swollen and I was just entirely exhausted for weeks on end. My advice about the spleen thing in general is that if you take any prescription meds absorbed through the liver, monitor them closely because the spleen and liver involvement of mono can mess them up and lead to further complications.

Somehow, despite missing 60 days of school, I managed to pass the academic year, but only because I audited two courses on the agreement I'd make them up in summer school. It sucked. I don't recommend it.

On the other hand, I've seen just about every episode ever made of the Dick Van Dyke Show, the Mary Tyler Moore Show, and the Fugitive.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 9:51 PM on April 6, 2007

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