Glandular fever is a viral illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It is also called infectious mononucleosis. The Epstein-Barr virus is in the herpes family of viruses. It is a very common infection and typically occurs in the 10 to 25 year old age group. It can however occur at any age. It is infectious and can be spread between people by transfer of saliva for example by kissing and was previously known as "The Kissing Disease". It can also be spread through tiny droplets in the air.
A person is most infectious when they have a high fever and contact with other people should be avoided at this stage. Kissing, cuddling, sharing cups and towels should all be avoided. The time from infection to developing symptoms is between thirty and fifty days. Symptoms and their severity vary from person to person. Young children are not excluded from nursery or school when they have glandular fever because it is usually a very mild illness in young children and because of the very long incubation period.
The virus attacks cells in the salivary glands first. Large amounts of virus are then released into the saliva and the infection can spread to another group of cells called the B cells. These multiply and cause the lymph glands to swell. A variety of symptoms can occur including a sore throat, fever, fatigue and tender lumps in the neck, armpits and groin. Antibiotics will not help and may result in a rash. Symptoms of pain and fever can be helped with paracetamol or ibuprofen, when appropriate, and plenty of fluid to drink.
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