Infectious mononucleosis (commonly called mono) affects about 1 out of every 2,000 people every year. But for a disease that common, misinformation abounds. Read on to get the facts.

Mono is most often caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). Nearly all adults have been exposed to EBV, and it stays in your body your entire life, but not everyone who has EBV will get mono. That’s just one of the common misconceptions about mono.

Myth #1. Only teenagers get mono.

While it’s true that teenagers and young adults are the most likely to contract mono, children and adults can get mono as well.

Myth #2. You only get mono through kissing.

Mono is nicknamed “the kissing disease” because it is spread through saliva. But kissing is only one way to spread saliva; it can also easily be spread by sharing utensils and glasses. Mono is also spread through nasal fluids, blood and semen.

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“While the chance of contracting Mono is very low, it is important for athletes in contact sports to avoid infection since they cannot return to play with an enlarged spleen,”  said Jennifer Rose Boozer, DO, clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and family medicine physician at Keck Medicine of USC’s Glendale and Pasadena locations. “One way to reduce the risk of catching mono is by not sharing foods and drinks.”

Myth #3. A sore throat is the only symptom of mono.

A sore throat, fever and fatigue are the hallmark symptoms of mono. Other less common symptoms include headaches, rashes, abdominal pain and difficulty breathing. Here’s how to tell if your sore throat is a symptom of something else.

Myth #4. I need antibiotics if I have mono.

Mono is viral, so antibiotics are ineffective in treating it. Try ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce any fever and ease aches and pains. It is risky to take aspirin specifically for mono, as aspirin can cause Reye syndrome in rare cases after a viral infection. However, if you do have a separate infection, like strep throat, you may need to take antibiotics. Find out how to avoid catching strep throat.

Myth #5. You can get mono more than once.

While the EBV will be in your body the rest of your life, you won’t get mono again. If you do experience symptoms of mono a second time, see your doctor for diagnosis.

Myth #6. Mono isn’t serious.

Though mono itself isn’t serious, it may cause complications that are. These include enlargement and a possible rupture of the spleen and liver issues, including hepatitis and jaundice. Other complications may include anemia, swollen tonsils, inflammation of the heart, meningitis, encephalitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from some of the top physicians in the world, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.

By Anne Fritz