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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Glandular fever

Karawaka repe

Glandular fever (also known as infectious mononucleosis) is a viral infection. It's caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and affects mainly young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years.

You catch glandular fever through close person-to-person contact. This can include kissing, and sharing cups and toothbrushes.

Most people have been infected with EBV at some time, but many people have no symptoms. However, the virus causes glandular fever in up to half of teenagers and young adults who catch it.

It's very rare to have glandular fever more than once.

Symptoms of glandular fever

Some people do not develop any symptoms despite being infected with the virus. If you have glandular fever you'll usually have some of the following symptoms for up to two to three weeks.

Most people get better within a few weeks, but some people can take months to fully recover.

Diagnosing glandular fever

Your GP will usually diagnose glandular fever without having to do any tests. If your symptoms continue, or the diagnosis is not clear, a blood test for EBV can check for glandular fever.

Your GP may consider other causes, such as a strep throat or another viral infection.

Self-care for glandular fever

Glandular fever usually goes away by itself. As glandular fever is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not be effective.

You can help yourself by:

Complications of glandular fever

Most people do not have complications from glandular fever. If you do, they may include:

Preventing the spread of glandular fever

EBV is spread by close contact with the saliva or snot (nasal secretions) of infected people. This can happen by touching hands, toys, eating utensils, drink bottles, or by kissing.

People can be infectious for up to seven weeks before they get symptoms, and for many months after their symptoms go away. It's important to avoid close contact with anyone who has, or has recently had, glandular fever. Try not to kiss, share cups, cutlery or towels with other people.

Good hand hygiene prevents the virus spreading. Make sure you wash your hands regularly and well.

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Written by Medical Liaison Manager, Southern Community Laboratories. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2022.


See also:

Eating and drinking when you're unwell

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