Lots of conditions and diseases cause tiredness and fatigue, but with mono, it may be more profound. If you or someone close to you has been sidelined by this disease, getting lots of rest and taking care of yourself is vital to feeling better and recovering sooner.
Rest is an essential part of recovering from mono, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend weeks in bed. Though many who suffer from mono may be eager to get back to their usual routines while recovering, not rushing the process is one of the most important steps to help your body heal faster and better.
In this article, learn about mono and the ways you can do to recover from it, especially from the fatigue it usually comes with.
What is Mono?
Mono (mononucleosis) is a common, infectious illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) that can leave teens and adults feeling like they got the worst cold or flu that they’ve had. While symptoms of mono usually disappear in people after two to four weeks, the fatigue associated with it can last for several additional weeks. Sometimes, it takes an extra month or two after symptoms disappear entirely to regain your typical strength and energy.
This disease is sometimes called the “kissing disease” because you can get it through saliva. You can get mono by sharing drinking glasses and bottles, eating utensils, and through coughs and sneezing. Some kinds of mono are also transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids.
Mono is less contagious than a cold. It’s usually more common in teens and young adults. Symptoms in children are generally too mild to notice, and older adults typically have immunity to the virus.
Common symptoms of mono include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands
- Body aches
- Swollen tonsils
- Swollen liver and/or spleen
The typical symptoms of mono include sore throat, fever, and enlarged and painful lymph glands on the neck. But the unique clinical feature of mono that makes it different from other viral and bacterial infections is the severe fatigue that accompanies this symptom.
Most people develop an uncomplicated mono that goes away on its own after a few weeks. However, some people develop complications like chronic fatigue syndrome, upper airway obstruction, neurologic disease, hepatitis, hematologic cytopenias (reduction in the number of blood cells), and rupture of the spleen.
The spleen is vulnerable to ruptures within the first 4-6 weeks of having mono symptoms. When the spleen is enlarged, symptoms may include pain and tenderness around the spleen and on the upper left side of the abdomen, feeling uncomfortable when eating, indigestion, and pain when taking deep breaths or moving around.
Tips for Managing Symptoms of Mono
Give yourself time to rest and relax
This vital recommendation is hard to follow if you’re used to being active or if your schedule is typically loaded with work and other commitments. But getting extra rest is key to recovering from mono. Not sleeping and resting enough can make the virus worse.
You have to sleep soundly and adequately every night. When you’re not sleeping, you don’t need to be on complete bed rest, as you’ll be at risk of deconditioning if you become excessively sedentary. But you shouldn’t keep up with your typical schedule either.
No matter how much energy you think you have, avoid contact sports entirely for at least four weeks after your symptoms start to appear, as you’re at risk of rupturing your spleen. This severe complication needs immediate medical attention if you feel a sudden, sharp pain in your upper abdomen. It can be fatal if not treated immediately.
Rest and relaxation are super important for recovery. Just like other viruses in the herpes family, the Epstein-Barr virus can stick around in the body in a dormant state, causing no symptoms. Anytime, it may reactivate, especially during times of stress. A study found that there was a difference between the rates of EBV infection and reactivation in participants who had elevated cortisol and epinephrine levels. This means increased stress hormones can cause the dormant virus to return again.
Get some quality sleep
Make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep and go to bed at roughly the same time every night. This will not only ensure that your body gets an adequate amount of rest, but it’ll also make it easier for your body to predict when you will be sleeping. A good sleep pattern enables your body to save up repair work for certain times when it knows you’ll be resting.
To sleep better, cut out too much coffee and alcohol because these prevent you from getting quality sleep. A good sleep pattern may not alleviate your mono, but it’s a definite way to help overcome your fatigue. If you’re having a hard time sleeping, try using sleeping aids like a white noise machine or aromatherapy, or make your bedroom darker.
Avoid intense physical activity
For constant fatigue associated with other conditions, doctors have always advised exercise. Aggressive exercises should be avoided because they can worsen symptoms more, but they advise that patients maintain physical activities to prevent deconditioning. Very low-intensity exercises that increase gradually were thought to improve long-term function. It was believed that you could exercise your way out of this illness.
However, recent guidelines from the CDC have changed their stand when it comes to exercise for people with chronic fatigue syndrome – a long-term illness that may start with a simple mono. If your mono has healed, but fatigue symptoms still come from time to time, you may be experiencing chronic fatigue syndrome, and if so, you must take caution before exercising. Doctors now say that there’s a level of exercise that makes symptoms get worse. So, the best thing to do is to listen to your body and don’t overexert it.
Eat healthy foods to strengthen your immune system
You can make yourself feel better by improving the foods you take in. If you eat healthier choices, your body will thank you. Here’s what you want to do with your diet as you rest and recover from mono:
- Avoid refined foods like sugar and white breads.
- Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats. Get more protein from other sources like tofu, cold-water fish, or beans.
- Eat more antioxidant-rich foods like fruits and green and leafy vegetables.
- Reduce or completely eliminate trans fats found in commercially baked goods like crackers, cookies, cakes, donuts, French fries, processed foods, deep-fried foods, and margarine.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
- Use healthy oils like coconut oil and olive oil.
Drink plenty of fluids
Along with a healthy diet, make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and to help relieve sore throat and fever. Physicians recommend drinking at least 12-16 cups of fluids (including water, broth, tea, and other soothing liquids). You need to increase that quantity if you have a fever. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these can worsen dehydration.
If you have muscle aches, try taking OTC pain relievers
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), can help with fever or pain caused by mono. Some people who have mono encounter symptoms like headaches and body aches, and painkillers can help relieve them.
However, be aware that acetaminophen overdose is one of the most common causes of poisoning worldwide, and adults must not take more than 4,000 mg of acetaminophen a day. Many medications contain acetaminophen, so you might take more than you realize if you take more than one medicine a day. Also, avoid giving teenagers and kids aspirin, as it can be linked to Reye’s syndrome, a rare and dangerous disease that can cause brain and liver damage. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are safer alternatives.
Try antiviral therapy
Some doctors may recommend antiviral agents like acyclovir and valacyclovir for treating the symptoms of mono, especially in cases of severe infectious mononucleosis. These treatments must be handled with care and caution because of the potential risk of drug toxicity.
A study found that valacyclovir therapy can cause a reduction of EBV excretion, and it can potentially reduce symptoms of mononucleosis. This drug can also be used for treating chronic fatigue syndrome, which is caused by a prior EBV infection.
However, antivirals are not recommended as a first line of defense. These drugs may help make mono harder to spread, but it usually doesn’t improve the clinical symptoms.
What is certain is that mono is associated with chronic fatigue syndrome, so you do have to act now to avoid a more serious situation later on. Let your body rest and recover from the virus so you can be up and running like before in no time.