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Glandular fever - Symptoms of glandular fever

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Symptoms of glandular fever take around one to two months to develop after infection with the Epstein-Barr virus. This is known as the incubation period.

Common symptoms

The most common symptoms of glandular fever are:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or above
  • sore throat - usually more painful than any previous throat infection you may have had
  • swollen glands (nodes) in your neck and possibly in other parts of your body, such as under your armpits

In addition to throat pain, you may also have:

  • swollen tonsils
  • the inside of your throat may be very red and ooze fluid
  • swollen adenoids, which are two lumps of tissue at the back of your nose
  • small purple spots on the roof of your mouth

Other symptoms

Other symptoms of glandular fever include:

  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • a general sense of feeling unwell
  • a headache
  • chills
  • sweats
  • loss of appetite
  • pain behind your eyes
  • swelling of your spleen - this may cause a noticeable and tender swelling or lump in the left side of your abdomen (tummy)
  • swelling or "puffiness" around your eyes
  • swelling of your liver - this usually causes mild pain and tenderness in the lower right side of your abdomen
  • jaundice - yellowing of the whites of your eyes and skin

The course of the infection

In most cases of glandular fever, the symptoms will resolve within two to three weeks of the initial infection. Your sore throat will be at its worst for three to five days after symptoms start before gradually improving, and your fever will usually last 10 to 14 days.

Fatigue is the most persistent symptom and can last for several weeks. However, in about one in 10 people fatigue lasts for up to six months. Most people will be able to resume normal activities within one to two months.

When to seek medical advice

You should contact your GP if you suspect that you or your child has developed glandular fever.

While there is little that your GP can do in terms of treatment other than provide advice and support, blood tests may be needed to rule out less common but more serious causes of your symptoms, such as hepatitis (a viral infection that can cause liver disease) and HIV.

Seek urgent medical help if you or your child experience any sudden, intense lower abdominal pain.

Medical Review: October 22, 2012
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