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Glandular fever - Treating glandular fever

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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There is currently no cure for glandular fever, but the symptoms should pass within a few weeks. However, there are things you can do to help control your symptoms.


It is important to drink plenty of fluids (preferably water or unsweetened fruit juice) to avoid becoming dehydrated. This will also help to relieve your symptoms of fever and sore throat.

Avoid alcohol, as this could damage your liver, which will already be weakened from the infection.


Painkillers available over the counter such as paracetamol, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, can help relieve symptoms of pain and fever.

Children under 16 years old should not take aspirin. There is a small risk it could trigger a rare but serious health condition called Reye's syndrome, which affects the liver and brain.


It is important you take plenty of rest for the first two to three weeks after your glandular fever symptoms begin. However, complete bed rest is no longer recommended, as it can make the symptoms of fatigue last longer.

You should gradually increase your activities as your energy levels return, but it is important to avoid activities you cannot manage comfortably.

Read more about health and fitness.

You can return to work, college or school as soon as you feel well enough. There is little risk of spreading the infection to others as long as you follow commonsense precautions, such as not kissing other people or sharing utensils.

For the first month after your symptoms begin, avoid contact sports or activities that put you at risk of falling. This is because if you have a swollen spleen, it is more vulnerable to damage and a sudden knock could cause it to rupture.

Salt water

Gargling with salt water may help relieve the symptoms of a sore throat. Mix half a teaspoon of salt (2.5g) with a quarter of a litre (eight ounces) of water.

If you are over 16 years old, you may find dissolving aspirin in water provides some additional benefit. Children under 16 should not take aspirin.

Antibiotics and steroids

Antibiotics are not effective in treating glandular fever because they have no effect on viral infection. However, antibiotics may be prescribed if you develop a secondary bacterial infection of the throat.

A short course of steroids may also be prescribed if your tonsils are particularly swollen or causing breathing difficulties. Steroids are also sometimes used to treat other complications of glandular fever unrelated to swollen tonsils, such as:

Medical Review: October 22, 2012
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