A woman with a shawl over her face, fatigued and resting while healing from mononucleosis.

How to Test for Mononucleosis

A woman with a shawl over her face, fatigued and resting while healing from mononucleosis.

You could have various illnesses if you have experienced pain or swelling in the throat, an inability to speak, or other symptoms. Still, it is crucial to recognize that you could have a severe illness and know how to test for it. 

Today we will discuss mononucleosis, what it is, the symptoms you may experience, why it is essential to get tested for it, and how to test for mononucleosis.

What is Mononucleosis?

Mononucleosis is a disease that can be caused by several viruses.1 The most common cause stems from the Epstein-Barr virus and primarily affects adolescents and adults. Mononucleosis is also known as mono, infectious mononucleosis, or “the kissing disease” since the primary mode of spreading is through the saliva of someone infected with the virus.

The symptoms and side effects of mono can mimic other conditions, such as laryngitis or tonsillitis, so testing is necessary to confirm the virus. Without treatment, symptoms can worsen, and the risk of spreading the illness to others increases.

Mononucleosis Causes 

The primary cause of mononucleosis is coming into direct contact with the saliva of someone with the virus, most often through kissing. However, it can also be contracted by sharing drinking glasses or utensils with someone with the virus. However, young patients can be asymptomatic carriers of the virus because symptoms do not always manifest in the very young who contract the virus.

In some instances, other select viruses may also trigger mononucleosis, making testing all the more critical to determine the exact cause. Similar symptoms can be present with other illnesses, making it more challenging to determine the appropriate treatment.

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Mononucleosis Symptoms 

An elderly man covered with a blanked and putting a spray in his throat to treat mononucleosis swelling and soreness.Mononucleosis is a virus that affects the mouth, lips, and throat. It is primarily an issue for teens and young adults. Though more youthful children and older adults may contract the virus, other age groups may be less symptomatic, with some showing no visible symptoms. Teens and young adults typically acquire the full range of symptoms of mononucleosis.

Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Body Aches
  • Swelling
  • Sore Throat
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes
  • Swelling and Inflammation of the liver or spleen

Can you Drink with Mononucleosis? 

One of the primary symptoms of mono is inflammation of the liver. As such, doctors advise against drinking alcohol for patients with an active or suspected case of mono so as not to cause or aggravate liver damage.

How to Test for Mononucleosis 

Testing for the contraction of mono can be done in various ways due to its viral nature. In most cases, a doctor may only perform a specialized test to diagnose a patient with mono if it is clear based on the symptoms presented. Instead, they will analyze the patient based on lymph node swelling and other symptoms.

Blood Tests 

blood vial on a medical questionnaireFor patients who do not have a typical case of mononucleosis, doctors may perform a blood test check for abnormal white cells, raised white cell count, low platelet count, or abnormal liver function to help doctors determine the cause of atypical mono.

Rapid Tests 

If patients exhibit abnormal symptoms, a doctor may perform a rapid test for mono, such as a nasal swab which checks for different types of bacteria besides the typical Epstein-Barr test, including streptococcus type A, making it easier to treat different variants of mono.

Mononucleosis Treatments 

There is no vaccine for mononucleosis. However, it is possible to manage symptoms and treat the effects of the virus.

A glass full of water that is disturbed by throwing an ice cube in it. Also, there are two crystal clear ice cubes near the glass.As far as at-home treatment, one of the most critical factors is constant hydration. Staying hydrated will help reduce swelling and other symptoms, and being rested and avoiding strenuous activity while symptoms persist is also advised. Over-the-counter medications are available to manage fever and pain.

Patients with typical infectious mononucleosis caused by the Epstein-Barr virus should avoid antibiotics or penicillin. Inflammation of the liver makes it more difficult for the body to process medications, so patients should discuss any medications they are currently on with their doctor. An enlarged spleen is another potentially dangerous symptom, so patients should avoid any jarring movements or impact sports as this could cause the spleen to rupture.

It’s important to note that mono can affect the major organs, so if symptoms persist or worsen, you should see a doctor immediately. Though rare, mono can cause organ damage and complications that may need medication or specialized treatments. A doctor may need to perform additional testing to determine the severity of symptoms or potential injury within the organs. These effects may be severe and require lifestyle changes or even surgery.

Prevention of Mononucleosis 

A black colored doctor holding a clipboard and a pen.Prevention of mononucleosis is the best way to avoid catching the disease. The most common mode of transition is the transfer of saliva, though different mono variations may be more contagious than others.

Maintaining good hygiene includes washing hands, cleaning personal objects, and avoiding sharing utensils or drinking glasses. Clean surfaces regularly with antibacterial cleansers and try to avoid anyone who appears to have symptoms. Avoiding common shared resources like public drinking fountains or unsanitized bathrooms is wise for those looking to reduce the risks of contracting mono.

Lastly, avoid high-risk behaviors such as coming in close bodily contact with others, particularly exchanging fluids through kissing, etc.


Mononucleosis is a contagious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, among others. It primarily affects teens and young adults who come close to someone infected with mono. People contracting mononucleosis may exhibit symptoms like lymph node swelling, rash, fever, and liver and spleen swelling. Rest and medication can help manage the symptoms of mono, but severe cases can cause organ damage and may require medical intervention.

By maintaining oral hygiene and avoiding sharing personal objects with other people, it is possible to prevent catching the virus. As always, consult a doctor if you need treatment advice or if symptoms worsen.

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Lab Testing - Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to do lab tests occasionally?

It is important to do lab tests occasionally because they can provide valuable information about an individual's health and help to identify potential health issues early on. Lab tests can measure a wide range of factors, including blood count, cholesterol levels, liver and kidney function, and hormone levels, and can provide insight into an individual's overall health and wellness. Additionally, lab tests can help to diagnose and monitor the progression of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, and can help to identify any potential health risks or concerns. By doing lab tests occasionally, individuals can take proactive steps to maintain their health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of potential health problems in the future.

What does a routine blood test cover?

A routine blood test is used to check for a range of things, including your blood count and the levels of certain chemicals and substances in your blood. Blood tests can also be used to check how well certain organs, such as your liver and kidneys, are functioning.

How is a blood sample collected for lab testing?

A blood sample for lab testing is typically collected through a process called venipuncture, which involves inserting a small needle into a vein to draw blood. This is usually done on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.

What is the cost of a lab test?

In general, the cost of a lab test can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. It is always best to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider to get an accurate estimate of the cost of a lab test.

Read More: Lab Testing FAQ


[1] Balfour HH Jr, Dunmire SK, Hogquist KA. - Infectious mononucleosis. Clin Transl Immunology. 2015 Feb 27;4(2):e33. doi: 10.1038/cti.2015.1;