A variety of conditions can produce symptoms similar to those of IM; however if cold or flu-like symptoms persist for longer than two weeks, mononucleosis may be suspected. Mononucleosis usually is diagnosed by a blood test—called a mono spot test—that measures anti-bodies to EBV. Antibodies may not be detectable until the second or third week after the onset of symptoms. The antibodies peak between weeks two and five and can persist at low levels for up to a year.
About 90% of IM cases show a positive mono spot. Infants and young children do not make the type of anti-bodies that are measured by the mono test. If the mono spot is inconclusive, additional blood tests may be performed that measure an increase in the overall number of white blood cells or an increase in abnormal-appearing lymphocytes that make antibodies against EBV. Other tests can identify at least six specific types of EBV anti-bodies that may be present in the blood.
The most effective treatment for infectious mononucleosis is rest, followed by a gradual return to normal activities. If the spleen is enlarged, all contact sports, heavy lifting, and jarring activity such as cheerleading, should be avoided until the enlargement has subsided completely. However exercise such as swimming, running, and other non-contact sports may be resumed. Since mononucleosis can involve the liver, it is important not to consume alcohol.
Although there is no cure for mononucleosis, alternative remedies may help the body to fight the infection and relieve symptoms. Medical practitioners recommend eating four to six small daily meals of unprocessed foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables. It is important to drink plenty of water. Meat, sugar, saturated fats, and caffeinated and decaffeinated drinks should be avoided. Gargling with salt water (one half teaspoon in one cup of warm water) or lozenges may relieve a sore throat.
Vitamins A, B-complex, and C, and magnesium, calcium, and potassium supplements can boost the immune system and increase energy levels.
Margaret Alic PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,