Glandular fever

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What is glandular fever?

Glandular fever is a viral infection which causes a high temperature, sore throat and tiredness. In mose cases, the symptoms will usually be present for two to three weeks, but fatigue may be a problem for longer and can last for several months in some cases. Glandular fever is not normally considered a serious threat to a person’s health, but can be an uncomfortable and prolonged infection which typically lasts a lot longer than the common cold.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of glandular fever are:

  • a fever

  • a (fairly severe) sore throat - this can include swollen tonsils, fluid on the inside of the mouth, purple spots and swollen adenoids (the lumps of tissue behind your nose)

  • swollen glands

  • fatigue

  • a headache

  • chills

  • sweats

  • pain or swelling around the eyes

  • swelling of the liver or spleen

  • jaundice

What causes glandular fever?

The most common cause of glandular fever is the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). In children, this common infection will only cause mild symptoms, with glandular fever typically only occuring in early adulthood. Spread through shared saliva, activities such as kissing, exposure to coughs and sneezes and sharing unwashed eating utensils can all lead to glandular fever being passed from person to person.

From the saliva, the infection is passed to the white blood cells before spreading through the lymphatic system (the series of glands spread throughout the body which are responsible for producing cells for the immune system). In half of glandular fever cases, the spleen (an important part of the lymphatic system) may become infected and swell as a result.

Once you are infected with EBV, you will typically remain contagious for at least two months, with some cases lasting almost two years. However, once you have suffered from glandular fever once, you are unlikely to do so again as most people will soon develop a life-long immunity after the initial infection.

How is it treated?

Although there is no cure for glandular fever, the following advice should help to control the symptoms:

  • Fludis. To avoid becoming dehydrated and to reduce your fever, you should drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol.

  • Painkillers. Over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can also be used to help relieve the symptoms of a fever as well as any pain.

  • Rest. If you are suffering from glandular fever it is important to remain comfortable at all times. In the initial stages you may feel too weak to get up, but after two or three weeks you should take as much exercise as you can to avoid prolonging symptoms of fatigue.

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