Eight things everyone should know about glandular fever

Glandular fever isn't just caught through kissing.
Glandular fever isn't just caught through kissing.

Nobody likes a sore throat, especially when accompanied by horribly swollen glands and a raging fever - which can be tell-tale signs of dreaded glandular fever.

Caused by the EpsteinBarr virus (EBV), most people will be exposed to it during their lifetime - often during early childhood, when it might cause minimal symptoms, or even go totally unnoticed, and the body builds up immunity to it.

This isn’t always the case though, and some - particularly teens and young adults - catch it later and experience a nasty bout of illness.

Here are eight things everybody should know about glandular fever...

YOU DON’T JUST CATCH IT FROM KISSING: It may be commonly known as the ‘kissing disease’, but that doesn’t mean you only catch it from locking lips with somebody who’s infected. “It’s mainly spread through saliva, so kissing, coughing, sneezing, and sharing a glass or cutlery, are the easiest ways to catch the virus,” says Dr Louise Read, a GP and advisor to Dr Morton’s - the medical helpline. “It is, however, less easy to catch than the common cold.”

IT CAN MAKE YOU FEEL REALLY UNWELL: Symptoms typically include swollen glands, a high temperature/fever, a horribly sore throat and fatigue. How severe these things are can vary from person to person.

YOU PROBABLY WON’T KNOW YOU’VE CAUGHT IT IMMEDIATELY: “The incubation period is four to eight weeks,” Dr Read explains of the time frame between catching the infection and getting unwell. “Symptoms usually settle after two to three weeks, but can last for many weeks or months,” she adds.

THE FATIGUE CAN LINGER: “The tiredness associated with glandular fever can last for several months. Up to 50% of people with glandular fever can feel Not just ‘the kissing disease’ like this. Frustratingly, the reasons for this are not known,” says Read.

TAKE IT VERY EASY: Though complete bed rest isn’t generally recommended these days (this can actually slow the recovery process), children and teens will need some time off school, and adults will need some time off work to get some decent rest - and then ease back into normal activities gently while your energy returns. Staying well-hydrated is also important and avoiding alcohol is also advised.

BUT YOU PROBABLY WON’T NEED A PRESCRIPTION: Paracetamol and ibuprofen can help relieve pain and fever, and gargling with a warm salt-water solution can help sore throats.

OTHER SERIOUS COMPLICATIONS CAN OCCUR: About half of people with glandular fever get a swollen spleen, while one in 750 will end up in hospital with a ruptured (burst) spleen. Problems with the nerves affect about one in 100 people with glandular fever. A severely swollen throat can also result in difficulty swallowing for some people.

TAKE STEPS TO AVOID IT SPREADING: Once you’ve got symptoms and while they settle, it’s sensible to take steps like you’d do with a cold or flu; not sharing drinks, washing hands etc. Most people will already have been exposed to the virus at some point in their lives. Plus “15-20% of people will feel well but continue to spread the virus.