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‘Kissing Disease’ Is an Actual Thing – What Is It All About?

It’s another term for mono and spreads through saliva and close contact, such as kissing, hence the name.

Updated
Fit
3 min read
It usually spreads through saliva and close contact, such as kissing, hence the name. 
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Kissing – it’s a word that represents love. Be it a peck on the cheek from your parent or a full french with your lover, it’s a happy word. So it’s a bummer when it’s attached to a disease, right? Yep, there’s something called the ‘kissing disease’.

Mononucleosis or mono, colloquially called the ‘kissing disease’, is an infectious disease. It usually spreads through saliva and close contact, such as kissing, hence the name. You can also contract it through other ways like sharing drinks or utensils.

It’s generally not a serious or dangerous illness and not that common either. People with mono have symptoms like fever, sore throat and weakness. But these symptoms are more severe than what you have in a common cold or a regular viral disease.

People with mono have symptoms like fever, sore throat and weakness.
People with mono have symptoms like fever, sore throat and weakness.
(Photo: iStock)
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Too caught up to read? Listen to the story:

What Causes ‘Kissing Disease’ Or Mono?

Mono is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

It spreads through direct contact with saliva from the mouth of an infected person or other bodily fluids such as blood. You can contract it through kissing, sexual contact, or sharing foods and drinks with someone who has it.

It’s a virus that many are exposed to as kids. But at that age, it typically causes mild or no symptoms, and the infection often goes unrecognised.

It’s possible that you get infected with EBV at an early age and carry it with you your entire life unnoticed, or become immune to it. In adolescents and adults, the infection causes noticeable symptoms in 35 to 50 percent of cases.

‘Kissing Disease’ Is an Actual Thing – What Is It All About?
(Photo: iStock)

Is it prevalent in India?

Mono is not very common, but it’s there. In India, we’re not used to seeing it so much, so sometimes physician’s mistake it for a normal sore throat.
Dr Sumit Ray, Senior Consultant, Critical Care Medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital

In developing countries, people are exposed to the virus at a young age and acquire immunity.

What Are the Symptoms of Mono?

The virus mostly infects young people as well as those who spend a lot of time in close contact with others, in places like schools or colleges. It’s not dangerous but it’s painful and bothersome.

The symptoms of kissing disease are very similar to common cold or viral.

  • High grade fever
  • Severe sore throat
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Bodyache
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Swollen lymph glands

Since the patient has difficulty in swallowing anything, they may need to be on intravenous fluids (IV).

‘Kissing Disease’ Is an Actual Thing – What Is It All About?
(Photo: iStock)

These symptoms can be mild but if they’re severe it can hamper your daily activities and put you down for a few weeks. A case of mono is confirmed after conducting relevant tests.

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What Is the Treatment?

Well, there’s no treatment for mono. You have to wait it out. So staying rested and hydrated and maybe taking painkillers if it’s unbearable can help you survive the infection. The infection usually takes one or two months to go away.

Treatment is aimed at easing the symptoms.

Taking antibiotics is an absolute no-no, it will make you more prone to fungal infections or secondary infections. But because of the severity and it’s similarity to sore throat, there’s a tendency to give antibiotics, says Dr Ray.

So beware. Popping antibiotic pills is anyway not recommended nowadays, what with antibiotic resistance becoming a dangerous reality.

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