Common ailments

Glandular fever

Q: I am a 21 year old student and for the past week I have been unwell with a really sore throat and cold-like symptoms. The trouble is that I’ve also had quite a high temperature and have been feeling very tired.

A: From the symptoms you describe, it sounds as though you have a viral infection. A common one affecting mostly young adults like you is glandular fever (sometimes also called infectious mononucleosis).

Glandular fever is spread through saliva and it is estimated that one in every 200 people will develop it in any given year. It can be spread through coughs and sneezes, sharing eating and drinking utensils, such as cups, glasses, unwashed forks and spoons, and through kissing (it is often referred to as the ‘kissing disease’).

For many people glandular fever is a mild illness, but can be unpleasant and cause fatigue lasting several weeks. Unfortunately, there is no cure for glandular fever therefore, as with a common cold and flu, treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms, such as using painkillers to ease any pain and reduce fever. It is also advisable to avoid vigorous exercise and contact sports for some weeks afterwards as glandular fever can affect the spleen, making it more vulnerable to trauma.

As your symptoms have persisted for more than 7 days, I would recommend that you visit your GP who will be able to make a formal diagnosis. They will look out for characteristic signs of glandular fever such as swollen lymph glands and tonsils and may request a blood test to help confirm the diagnosis.

On a more positive note, if you are diagnosed as having glandular fever, it is highly unlikely you will ever develop a second bout of the infection. This is because most people develop a life-long immunity to glandular fever after the initial infection.


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