Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Glandular fever

What is glandular fever?

Glandular fever is a viral infection with unpleasant symptoms that can last several weeks.

Glandular fever is more common in teenagers and young adults, but can affect people of any age.

Glandular fever is spread through a person's saliva, through coughing, sneezing, shared cutlery and crockery, and kissing, which gives it the nickname 'the kissing disease'.

It is also sometimes also referred to as mononucleosis, or 'mono'.

Symptoms of glandular fever

Symptoms of glandular fever include:

Causes of glandular fever

Glandular fever is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), named after the British researchers who first identified it.

The Epstein-Barr virus is a type of human herpes virus (EBV/HHV-4) and is common.

The glandular fever virus can stay active in a person's body after obvious symptoms have gone, but it can still be passed on at this stage.

Not everyone who comes in contact with the virus will contract it, and having a healthy immune system may allow some people to fight it off.

Glandular fever in young children may appear mild, but it is usually most severe during adolescence or early adulthood.

Glandular fever usually begins gradually with flu-like symptoms.

After a few days, the lymph glands begin to swell, but this may not be visible in all cases.

Some people with glandular fever, particularly those who take the antibiotic amoxicillin, may develop a red rash all over the body. Others may notice red spots or darkened areas in the mouth that look like bruises. In about half of all cases, the spleen becomes enlarged, causing an area in the upper-left abdomen to become tender to the touch.

Most people with glandular fever will feel much better within 2 or 3 weeks, but fatigue may last longer.

The disease can last for more than a year with attacks during that time. However, once you've got over glandular fever, you are unlikely to get it again.

Diagnosing glandular fever

A doctor will diagnose glandular fever based on the symptoms, a physical examination and the person's medical history.

Blood tests may be arranged to rule out cytomegalovirus (CMV), rubella, mumps and toxoplasmosis.

What is the treatment for glandular fever?

Glandular fever cannot be cured, but medication can help relieve the pain and fever symptoms.

With rest and plenty of fluids, most people recover from glandular fever within 2 weeks.

In severe cases, antibiotics or corticosteroids (steroids) may be recommended for complications of glandular fever.

WebMD Medical Reference

Stay informed

Sign up for BootsWebMD's free newsletters.
Sign Up Now!

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

woman blowing nose
How to tell the difference
smiling baby
Causes and remedies
bowl of soup
Small changes that lead to weight loss
boy looking at broccoli
Simple tips for feeding fussy eaters
cold sore
How to cope with cold sores
boy coughing
Treatments for cold and fever
bain illustration
Best foods for your brain
bucket with cleaning supplies in it
Cleaning for a healthy home
avacado on whole wheat crackers
Plenty to choose from
woman looking at hair
What your hair says about your health