Glandular fever--better known as "mono" in the United States--is notorious for striking teenagers. Extreme fatigue, sore throat, a feeling of coming down with the flu--It's no fun. But is your baby susceptible? How might your child catch mono? Is it dangerous? Here's what every parent should know.
What is Glandular Fever?
Glandular fever (also called "infectious mononucleosis" or simply "mono") is caused by a virus that's in the herpes group. It's extremely common, and a person can be infected but never know it.
Can Babies Get Glandular Fever?
Anyone can get glandular fever, although it's far more common in teenagers and adults than it is in babies. The infection is transmitted through saliva; this is why it's sometimes called "the kissing disease." Kissing is a common way of catching glandular fever, but if someone coughs or sneezes on your baby, they could also transmit the disease.
If a breastfeeding mother is immune to the infection (because she's already had it), she might transmit her immunity to her baby as long as he is breastfeeding. But soon after she stops breastfeeding, the baby is likely to catch the infection. Those who are infected carry the virus in their bodies, so all it takes is a mother's kiss to pass the illness on.
Symptoms of glandular fever are usually different for infants and toddlers than they are for teens and adults. Many children never present symptoms, or the symptoms are confused with a common cold or flu.
Babies might have a slight fever and a bit of fatigue. They might eat less or might have a mild cough and runny nose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that glandular fever in babies is usually "indistinguishable from the other mild, brief illnesses of childhood" (see Resource 1).
It's rare a baby is diagnosed with glandular fever because the symptoms are so mild and could be caused by any number of other illnesses. However, if glandular fever is suspected (perhaps because someone else in the household has the illness), a blood test might be taken for diagnostic purposes.
Treatment is rarely necessary, even in adults with more prominent symptoms. Antibiotics will not be given not for glandular fever (because it is a virus), but they might be given for a secondary infection. Babies usually recover fully from glandular fever within four weeks.
The incubation period for glandular fever is six weeks.