If you were on Twitter last week, you may have noticed that “National Kiss Day” was a popular topic. While this random, nationally recognized day of almost no importance may make single people feel awkward about having no one to kiss, there is one big upside to not puckering up.
Kissing involves the exchange of saliva which can carry a multitude of bacteria and viruses, the most famous of those microbes being the Epstein-Barr Virus. Epstein-Barr, which is the virus responsible for mononucleosis, is commonly referred to as the “Kissing Disease.”
Epstein-Barr is a type of herpes virus and one of the most common viruses found in humans. About 90% of all American adults have evidence of a previous infection from childhood. If the disease is not caught as a child, it is almost always caught during the adolescent years. About 35% of the time, Epstein-Barr can cause mononucleosis in teenagers.
Epstein-Barr also has a long incubation period. Symptoms can last 2-4 weeks, and in some cases over 7 weeks.
Mono, as it’s called in North America, is hard to treat because it is hard to diagnose. 80-90% of the time, it is misdiagnosed as Strep Throat, which is caused by a bacteria. The physician prescribes antibiotics, normally ampicillin or amoxicillin, which have no effect on viruses.
Sore throat is almost always the first symptom since the disease is transferred via saliva. Fever, swollen lymph nodes, chest pain, abdominal pain, and fatigue soon follow. A full list of symptoms can be seen below:
Because Mono is difficult to track and even more difficult to treat, symptoms can last 2-4 weeks with extreme cases lasting over 7 weeks. Ibuprofin is usually given to reduce fever, and Prednisone, a type of steroid, is using to reduce extreme swelling. Other than that, there is no medication to destroy the virus.
So how do you avoid getting Epstein-Barr? Well chances are, you’ve already had it so there’s no need to worry. The people that need to worry most are hormonal teens and those with CMV negative blood. CMV is a virus very similar to Epstein-Barr, so if you don’t have antibodies for it chances are you were never infected with CMV or Epstein-Barr.
If you’re a teenager or are the parent of one, or if you have blood that is CMV negative, make sure you or your kids follow these tips:
- Don’t share beverages or eating utensils with anyone. Even if you drink from a bottle without touching the rim, saliva can still get in the drink and into your system.
- Practice good hygiene by washing your hands with soap and water. The average person touches their face 3 times a minute, normally around the mouth and nose. Having clean hands will reduce the risk of infection, and thus reduce the risk of developing a strong case of Mono later in the future.
- Don’t open mouth kiss unless you know the person you’re kissing is healthy. Less saliva exchange mean less risk for infection. If your boyfriend or girlfriend has been complaining of a sore throat and you open mouth kiss him/her, you are basically dipping your tongue into a petri dish.
If you have been diagnosed with Mononucleosis, the most important thing to do is stay in bed until you feel 100% again. Mono is a very contagious disease, so isolating the virus is key to prevent the spread.
Make sure your teenager son or daughter also knows the consequences of the “Kissing Disease.” If they happen to contract Mono while in school, they can kiss their good grades good-bye.