Glandular Fever : Virus, Symptoms in Children, Adults & Treatment

Glandular fever is a common name that is used to describe a viral infection called infectious mononucleosis. The virus is also known as the kissing disease because that is one of the ways to transmit it to another person. In this article, we will discuss glandular fever and explain how you can recognize the symptoms and how to treat it.

Who is most likely to get this virus?

Adolescents and young adults are most likely to get this virus with all its symptoms. Also, sometimes even young children are prone to this virus through toys and hands of infected individuals. However, young children usually don’t experience all symptoms and infection, sometimes, goes away unrecognized.

NOTE: if you get this infection it is important to rest and you should bear in mind it can lead to some complications from time to time (discussed below).

What causes glandular fever?

The cause of this infection is the Epstein-Barr virus. Glandular fever isn’t, usually, serious and it’s not a life-threatening infection. Majority of adults have been exposed to this Epstein-Barr virus and developed antibodies which means they became immune to glandular fever and won’t get it again.

How does it spread?

The Epstein-Barr virus can be found in the saliva and you can catch glandular fever or infectious mononucleosis just by kissing an infected person (hence the name). Additionally, you can catch the infection by drinking from the same glass as the infected individual or using the same toothbrush.

The virus is also found in semen or blood and it is possible to get it through sexual intercourse, organ transplant or blood transfusion. Moreover, you can transmit the virus onto another person even if you aren’t sick. Epstein-Barr virus stays in your body even after you recover from glandular fever and it can become active again in a few months or years.

Symptoms of glandular fever

Signs and symptoms of glandular fever are:

  • Soft and swollen spleen
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rash
  • Malaise – general feeling of discomfort
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your armpits and neck.

The person doesn’t get sick immediately after exposure to infected persons saliva, semen or blood and it doesn’t go away in day or two. Instead, glandular fever is characterized by incubation period of about four to six weeks for adolescents and adults, while it is shorter in young children. Symptoms listed above may last for several weeks, but fatigue and swollen lymph nodes in neck and armpits can last for a few months.

NOTE: if you experience all these symptoms then you probably have glandular fever. Additionally, if healthy diet and rest don’t help with your symptoms then you should see your doctor.


Complications associated with glandular fever

According to experts, complications linked with this infection are more serious than the infection itself. Most common complications connected with glandular fever are:

  • Enlargement of the spleen – glandular fever sometimes leads to enlargement of your spleen. However, in extreme cases, the spleen may even rapture which causes sudden and sharp pain in the left side of the upper abdomen. If you feel this type of pain make sure you go and see your doctor immediately.
  • Complications with liver – the infection can sometimes cause hepatitis (mild liver inflammation), or jaundice (skin and whites of your eyes become yellowish).

Other, less common, complications associated with glandular fever include:

  • Anemia – decrease of red blood cells
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Thrombocytopenia – decreased number of platelets (blood cells that are involved in clotting)
  • Various complications associated with your nervous system.

All people are different, and while some individuals don’t experience various complications related to glandular fever, some people are prone to serious illnesses. People who are more prone to complications associated with this infection are:

  • People with weak immune system
  • People with HIV/AIDS
  • People who take medications to suppress immunity after an organ transplant.

Treatment of glandular fever

Specific therapy that can treat this infection doesn’t exist. Moreover, you should bear in mind that taking antibiotics for glandular fever doesn’t help as antibiotics aren’t effective in treatment of viral infections. Usually, when individual gets this infection it is recommended to have plenty of rest, eat healthy foods rich in vitamins, and drink plenty of fluids e.g. tea, water etc.

When you see your doctor, based on the symptoms you describe and the thorough check-up, they may prescribe some medications that will ease your symptoms e.g. corticosteroids. Corticosteroid medication is usually prescribed for easing swelling of throat and tonsils.

Are there any home remedies for this infection?

Since there is no specific medical therapy that will treat this infection and taking antibiotics doesn’t help, it is recommended to have some rest, as it was mentioned above. Here is what else you can do to relive the symptoms of infection:

  • Drink a lot of water and freshly made fruit juices – drinking plenty of fluids is extremely important. Water, tea, and juices will relieve fever, sore throat, and prevent dehydration.
  • Pain reliever – if you are experiencing severe pain then you can take some over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. However, bear in mind that they do not have antiviral properties, they aren’t used to cure glandular fever, but only to relieve fever or some pain you are experiencing.
  • Salt and water – sore throat can be relieved by gargling salt and water a few times per day. Mix 8 oz of warm water and ½ tsp of salt.

NOTE: if your young child or teenager suffers from this infection make sure you use aspirin with caution or not at all. Even though aspirin is branded as safe to use for children who are older than 2 years of age, experts advise not to give aspirin to children and teenagers who are recovering from flu-like symptoms or chickenpox. Aspirin is associated with Reye’s syndrome which is a rare condition, but can be life-threatening.

Usually, signs and symptoms of infection will disappear in a few weeks. However, it could take up to three or four months before you feel completely healthy and recovered. In the meantime, you should take care of yourself and make sure you do not engage in various sports activities, heavy lifting, and other vigorous activities that could put you in danger of rupturing your spleen. Take as much rest as possible even when symptoms are gone.

Also, if your child suffers from infection, then you should make sure he or she gets enough rest and takes it easy with outdoor activities for up to a few months after the symptoms disappear.

TIP: if you are an infected person or a parent of infected child, it would be ideal to ask doctor when it is safe to continue with everyday activities.

Can I prevent this infection from spreading when I’m infected?

Yes. It is important now to kiss anyone or sharing food, eating utensils, toothbrush etc. Also, you shouldn’t drink out of the same glass, have sex, or even donate blood until several days your fever relieved or even longer.

You can’t know who the carrier is because that person might not be sick at that time, and the best you can do is to try and prevent someone getting infected from you. If someone you know gets this infection then you should make sure you don’t kiss, have sex, or share food with that person.

Is there a vaccine for this infection?

The answer would be, no. Vaccine that could prevent you or your child from getting this infection doesn’t exist.


Glandular fever or infectious mononucleosis is also known as the kissing disease. It is transmitted through saliva, and also by blood and semen. The infection is characterized by various symptoms which include fatigue, sore throat and tonsils and it is recommended to see a doctor as well as to ask for their advice about when it is safe to resume with everyday activities after getting over the infection.

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