Struggles with Mono: The Kissing Disease
By Keara Aughney
Sneezing, coughing, sore throats; that’s no fun, right? During your four years in high school, you are more than likely to end up with the typical common cold multiple times. But what about things more severe such as the flu, or an extremely contagious and well-known illness known as Mononucleosis?
This is a virus spread through saliva, most commonly found in teenagers. It is also referred to as the “kissing disease.” This has never seemed to be a common disease. However, according to abcnews.go.com, about 50% of kids get mono by age five and 95% of people get it in their lifetime.
Now you may be thinking “I have never had mono or I will never get it.” But here is the kicker, you may have had it without even knowing. Most people with the virus will carry it for the rest of their lives in a dormant state, without even knowing it because it is very common not to experience any symptoms. This means you can pass it on to someone without you or that person knowing it.
This disease does come with a nice perk. Once you contract mono and you are showing symptoms, your immune system becomes immune to the disease. Most people worry about getting mono when someone begins to show symptoms, however by the time someone appears with the symptoms, they aren’t even very contagious (unless it’s directly through saliva).
People are contagious 4 to 7 weeks prior to symptoms showing. At that time, many people do not know they have caught this disease and can spread it so simply. Mono can be spread through anything as simple as sharing a drink, food off of the same plate, or a shared utensil. Sharing food and drinks in high school is no big deal for the majority of people, as most share things with kids in class they barely know, simply out of kindness.
Now what does mono look like? Having first-hand experience, here were some of my symptoms leading to finding out I was infected with the disease. Toward the end of mid-winter break, I woke up with a fairly sore throat on a Thursday morning but I didn’t assume much of it. I took some medicine and continued on with my day. When I woke up the following Friday morning, it got significantly worse but I was not going to let that stop me from heading up to the snow for a weekend away with friends. I continued to try to make the sore throat better with over-the-counter meds, but it only got worse. By Sunday morning, I woke up around 3:30am with extreme pain that I had never experienced before. I thought it might have been strep, but I had no way of knowing until I got home. It hurt so badly I could barely swallow water. I went home preparing to go to bed early in order to be prepared for school Monday morning. When I woke up to go back to school after a week off, I could tell this was not just your average sore throat. I had a fever and swollen lymph nodes in my neck. My tonsils were fully swollen and covered in white. I headed off to the doctor thinking I had strep throat. When I got there, my doctor told me to open my mouth and stick out my tongue.
“Holy Crap what the hell is this? This is not strep throat; your throat isn’t spotted white, it’s covered. I can’t imagine how badly it must hurt,” my doctor said.
The thing about mono is there is no way to heal it. It needs time to heal on its own. I got my blood drawn and they ended up prescribing me Hydrocodine to help with the pain and sleeping. I missed the entire first week back to school resting and battling an all-liquid diet and feeling completely loopy and not myself. My throat started to get better after a little over a week but the fever lasted a total of 10 to 14 days.
Now that my throat is healed I feel so much better. I am just stuck with the common cold. However, the tiredness and exhaustion that comes with mono continues. Simple things such as waking up and going to school make me 100 times more tired than normal. I find myself getting extremely physically and mentally exhausted so easily and so fast, no matter how much sleep I get.
Senior Peder Fish has also dealt with the challenges of mono.
“It was not fun in any way, shape, or form,” said Fish. “My throat got really dry and sore. It got infected so therefore I couldn’t eat, drink, or swallow anything . My mind and body felt as if I was in a fog the entire time. I got blood drawn and they gave me antibiotics that were helpful, as well as Vicodin for the pain, which barely worked, so I just had to continue to take Motrin and other types of meds. It absolutely sucks.”
My tiredness still continues to this day and could last through the next few months. My experience with mono was painful and exhausting. I’m just glad I won’t have to go through it again.