Ah yes, spring break. A time for tropical vacations in Cancun or Florida or trips over the border to Montreal spent making memories with friends and having a good time. I had planned to send my spring break in Florida, but I guess it’s a good thing I never ended up buying my plane tickets because my spring break was spent in bed… with mono.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “The Epstein-Barr virus is a very common virus. About 85% to 90% of American adults have developed antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus by the time they are 40 years old.” The EBV virus is what causes mononucleosis, or more commonly known as mono and “the kissing disease”. Young adults in high school and college are the most susceptible because it preys on weak immune systems affected by high-stress levels and not enough sleep.
My first day home for spring break began with getting up at 8 AM to go to Doctor’s Express where I tested positive for mono. Thankfully, since I was already five weeks into the virus, I didn’t have much more to deal with because it usually only lasts for about six weeks. Even though I am a wimp when it comes to being sick, this was probably the worst sickness I’ve ever experienced. From the tiredness but not being able to sleep, to the three boxes of tissues I went through in four days, to the swollen and worst sore throat ever, all the way to the body aches, it was a week from hell. Now that my symptoms are mostly gone aside from fatigue, I’ve compiled together some of my tips for dealing with mono, or being sick in general. I know every case is different, but this is what helped me get through it.
1. If the first test comes back negative, wait a bit, then get tested again.
When I first started feeling sick, I went to Student Health and my mono test came back negative. I was told this is common within the first few weeks of mono and my positive result didn’t show up until week five. So, even if you test negative, you could still have mono, so be wary of who you share drinks with and if your symptoms persist, get tested again. I needed to be tested twice and I know someone who had to be tested four times before they caught it.
2. Don’t be afraid to go to the doctor more than once.
Just because you have a diagnosis doesn’t mean you can’t go to the doctor more than once. I went to urgent care once and my pediatrician twice throughout the week to make sure things were healing up and because a new symptom popped up that, while it’s normal for mono, can also indicate meningitis. Thankfully I don’t have meningitis, but it’s always best to be safe rather than sorry and your doctor is there to answer questions and make sure things are progressing properly
I didn’t get hit with serious fatigue until the Thursday after I started feeling crappy, but it’s still so important to rest. The less energy you’re expending doing things, the more energy your body has towards fighting whatever is attacking your immune system. With mono especially, it’s important to rest because the main symptom is fatigue (which started hitting me Thursday and had me asleep for almost 12 hours last night). Make sure to just take it easy. If nothing else, it’s an excuse to binge that Netflix show you’ve been meaning to watch.
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
One of my worst symptoms was an EXTREMELY dry throat. I’m guessing it was from constantly clearing my throat and from blowing my nose so much since your nose and throat are connected. Whatever the cause, hydrating was essential. I have one of those Gatorade water bottles that a lot of professional athletes have and I filled it up probably about 10 times a day (which meant I was peeing every 10 minutes… literally). Hydration is important when you’re sick with anything or even when you’re fully healthy, but with my case of mono, it was the only way to avoid my throat being painfully dry.
5. Ask your doctor about medicine and be diligent about taking it.
Unfortunately, there’s no medicine for mono. There’s no antibiotic or magic little pill to make it go away, so you have to be creative and diligent with pain management. I was given two rounds of steroids that lasted for four days to help with the swelling of my tonsils and was told to piggyback Tylenol and Ibuprofen. It’s crucial that you ASK YOUR DOCTOR what to do and not just automatically do what I did because your doctor might say something different. I was switching between the two every four hours and it worked decently. I also used a Chloraseptic spray to numb the back of my throat whenever I was about to eat something or go to bed so it was easier to get comfortable.
6. Be patient.
I know most of us can’t stand being sick and when it’s something serious that knocks you on your ass for a prolonged period of time, it’s so annoying to have to wait around to get better. I spent a lot of time groaning and even crying because I was frustrated and in pain and just wanted to enjoy my spring break without wanting to tear my throat out. But, at the end of the day, you need to relax and let your body do it’s thing so it can fight whatever is compromising your immune system. Complaining (unfortunately) doesn’t change anything and overworking yourself and trying to just do things despite being sick can actually slow your recovery down so give your body the time it needs.
7. When you start to feel better, don’t rush it.
I was feeling pretty decent last weekend after going to Doctor’s Express, so I went over to my aunt’s house for dinner and was up and doing a lot of things. I woke up miserable the next day and was miserable for the next four days and I think it’s partially because I felt pretty good and pushed it with my body and did a little too much. When you start to feel better, don’t instantly jump back into things because it can set you back and force you to go through recovery all over again. I know you’re itching to just do things once you feel okay, but trust me, you’ll thank yourself later for taking that extra day or two to really make sure you’re doing better before you start going back to work.
I hope this helped those of you who are sick with mono or anything else, or that you keep it bookmarked for if you ever catch mono (I hope none of you do because it sucks!). Mono is rampant on college campuses so be careful, try and get a decent amount of sleep (HA), and have a good rest of the semester, only two more months until summer vacation!