Thursday, December 5, 2013

Is your college student bringing home mono?

MAYWOOD, Ill. – One of the hallmarks of heading home for winter break is the enormous amount of laundry college students bring home as a present for mom and dad. But the dirty socks might not be the only unwelcome guest they transport home. They might also bring mononucleosis, better known as mono.

“Mono is often called the ‘kissing disease’ because it’s transmitted from person to person through saliva. But kissing is not the only way to contract mono. It can be spread by sharing drinks or food utensils. Since it occurs mostly in adolescents between the ages of 15 and 24, it’s a common illness for many college students,” said Khalilah Babino, DO, an immediate care physician at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Usual symptoms for mono include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands, especially toward the back of the neck
  • Headache
  • Poor appetite
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Rash

“Mono symptoms can be similar to those of strep throat so it’s important to get tested since treatment for these illnesses is different,” Babino said. “Mono is a viral illness and can’t be treated with antibiotic. Strep is a bacterial illness that often requires an antibiotic. Testing for both can be done rather quickly in a health-care provider’s office."

Since there are no antiviral medications for mono it is treated by managing the symptoms. This includes:

  • Rest
  • Hydration
  • Acetaminophen or non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medication
  • Or, if breathing problems develop, a prescription

“Fortunately, most symptoms resolve in a few weeks, but fatigue can last several months. Patients should wait until the fever has resolved and fatigue has improved before returning to school or work. Since there is the risk of a rupture of the spleen, most athletes should avoid sports for 3-4 weeks,” Babino said.

The best way to avoid catching and spreading mono is to refrain from sharing beverages and eating utensils and, unfortunately, kissing.

“Even if your college student isn’t showing signs of mono or other infection, winter break is a great time to get him or her in to see the doctor for a checkup,” Babino said.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), located on a 61-acre campus in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH), on a 36-acre campus in Melrose Park, and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. At the heart of LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that houses the Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, a burn center, a children's hospital, Loyola Outpatient Center, and Loyola Oral Health Center. The campus also is home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. The GMH campus includes a 254-licensed-bed community hospital, a Professional Office Building with 150 private practice clinics, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. It serves people and communities in 22 states from coast to coast with 93 hospitals, and 120 continuing care locations — including home care, hospice, PACE and senior living facilities — that provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually.