Related to Epstein-Barr virus, glandular fever is a viral infection transmitted through either direct contact with an infected person’s saliva or through droplets of saliva in the air. The disease is most often spread through sneezing, coughing, kissing, and sharing cups or drinks.
The most common early symptoms include fatigue, a painful sore throat and swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck. To confirm the diagnosis of glandular fever, a doctor will do a throat swab and culture. Glandular fever, which is known in some regions as mononucleosis, or mono, is a common condition and, like all viruses, resists drugs and other medical treatments.
Perhaps more of a nuisance than a threat, one of hallmarks of glandular fever is that it takes a very long time for the virus to run its course. From the time a patient is first exposed to the virus until the symptoms begins is usually between 7 and fourteen days. The symptoms may last, in varying degrees, for 6 to 8 weeks, and a patient who tests positive for glandular fever can remain contagious for as long as 18 months.
One of the primary symptoms of the illness is fatigue. The body is so busy fighting the virus, which mutates to survive, that all of its resources go into that battle. It is vitally important that patients with glandular fever rest when they are tired. Engaging in strenuous activity during this time increases the chances of a rare but very serious complication.
In less than 1% of patients with glandular fever, the spleen ruptures. The spleen must then be removed immediately or the patient may bleed to death. The spleen is a small organ protected by the ribs on the left hand side of the body near the back. Returning to heavy lifting or contact sports may play a part in this very rare complication, so safest course of action is to rest fully during the recovery phase.
Another symptom that affects many glandular fever patients is a very painful sore throat. The tonsils may be covered with white film or spots that show the body’s own defense systems are trying to keep the infection under control. A doctor my prescribe anti0imflammatory steroids to reduce the swelling of the throat. This medication may also reduce swelling in the spleen or lungs.
One approach to soothing the raw sore throat that comes with glandular fever is to gargle with warm, not hot, salt water. Ideally, the rinse used should be slightly warmer than body temperature. The salt water gargle helps gently cleanse the tonsils and rehydrate the raw, damaged membranes in the throat and mouth.
Swollen lymph glands are another sign of glandular fever. These can be located just below the back part of the lower jaw. To determine if the glands are swollen, the patient should tilt his face toward the ceiling and run the flats of his fingers across his neck near the back of the lower jaw. The swollen lymph glands will be tender to the touch and very obvious. Smaller lymph glands in the scalp may also swell. As the illness subsides, so will the swollen glands.