My Child Has Glandular Fever – What Now?

Glandular Fever – Infectious Mononucleosis

Infectious Mononucleosis

Glandular fever (infectious Mononucleosis) is also called the kissing disease. It is an infection caused by the Epstein Barr virus (EBV) and it is believed that once a person has been infected with the virus that it remains in their body for life, although it generally lies dormant and causes no further problems.

How Is Glandular Fever Spread?

The main way that glandular fever is spread from person to person is by contact with an infected person’s saliva. Common transmission methods include:

  • Kissing
  • Sharing food, drink or toothbrushes etc
  • Young children may contract the virus via infected saliva on a caregiver’s hands, or sucking on toys and sharing them
  • Exposure to saliva through a cough or sneeze

How Long Is Glandular Fever Contagious?

  • This is relatively unknown; the glandular fever virus can be passed on in the saliva up to one year after the illness, and intermittently after that.

Glandular Fever Symptoms

Main Symptoms Include

Other Less Common Symptoms May Include

  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscular aches and pains
  • Stomach pain and jaundice (a yellow tinge to the skin and eyes)
  • Pains behind or around the eyes
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Chills/sweats
  • Swollen tonsils and adenoids
  • Rash
  • Small purple or red spots on the roof of your mouth


  • These types of symptoms usually occur in older children and young adults. In younger children the symptoms are generally very mild
  • Up to half of the people infected with glandular fever will not have any symptoms at all
  • Once a person has been infected with glandular fever it can take 4 to 6 weeks before symptoms develop.
  • Glandular fever can last one to several weeks


See your doctor for a definitive diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Although antibiotics will not work on glandular fever (antibiotics have no effect on viruses), they may be prescribed if you have a secondary bacterial infection.

  • There is no antiviral drug to treat glandular fever
  •  You may use an over the counter medication such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to help bring down the fever and reduce aches and pains. (Do not give aspirin to children under 16 unless recommended by your doctor, there is a risk of a serious condition called Reye’s syndrome.


  • Prolonged fatigue – around one in ten people experience prolonged fatigue which can last six months or more
  • Reduction in Blood cells – In some cases glandular fever can lead to Anemia (a reduction in red blood cells), neutropenia (a reduction in white blood cells) or Thrombocytopenia (a reduction in platelets).
  • Ruptured spleen – many people who contract glandular fever will have a swollen spleen, although this does not present any immediate problem there is a risk of rupturing. Keep your child away from vigorous exercise and contact sports for at least a month after the illness
  • Neurological complications – in rare cases, around one in a hundred, people experience neurological complications such as:
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome – numbness and temporary paralysis due to inflamed nerves
  • Bell’s palsy – a temporary paralysis or weakness on one side of the face
  • viral meningitis – an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord
  • encephalitis – an infection of the brain
  • Secondary infections such as pneumonia and and pericarditis

When To Seek Emergency Care

If any of the following occur call an ambulance or go to the nearest emergency room immediately

  • If the infected person has noisy breathing (stridor) or any other breathing problems
  • Is having trouble swallowing fluids
  • Develops intense stomach pain (possible sign of a ruptured spleen)


  • Exclusion from childcare, school or work is not necessary. As soon as the infected person is well enough they can resume their normal daily routine

Use Common Sense:

  • Don’t kiss people
  • Cover up when coughing and sneezing
  • Use good hygiene principles – wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing
  • Don’t share food, drinks, toothbrushes etc
  • Until you have recovered make sure that you thoroughly clean anything that may have been contaminated by your saliva