Symptoms of Glandular Fever

Symptoms of Glandular Fever

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What are the Symptoms of Glandular Fever?

Authored by Dr Aifric Boylan on 30.09.2018
Medically Reviewed by Dr Dr Jillian Lau
Last updated on 14.04.2019

What is Glandular Fever?

  • Glandular Fever is the common name for a viral illness called Infectious Mononucleosis.
  • It is usually caused by the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV)- a type of herpes virus (related to the cold sore and chicken pox viruses), though some other viruses can cause it.
  • It’s very common, though only about half of people who catch it will develop symptoms.
  • Teenagers and young adults tend to get more obvious symptoms of Glandular Fever than younger children and older adults.
  • Once you’ve had Glandular Fever, the virus that causes it doesn’t leave your system but lies dormant.
  • A small minority of people continue to shed the virus for years after they first catch it (even though they have no ongoing symptoms), which means they can pass it on to non-immune people.

symptoms of Glandular Fever

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What are the symptoms of Glandular Fever?

The symptoms of Glandular Fever vary from person to person. They usually develop 4 to 6 weeks after exposure to the virus. However, as mentioned above, about half of people infected with EBV get no symptoms at all. Here are the common symptoms of Glandular Fever, as well as some rarer complications:

  • Sore Throat- the tonsils may be very large, and there may be exudate (white or yellowish spots) on or around the tonsils. The sore throat can last for up to a week or so. Often, the lymph nodes (“glands”) in the neck will be large and tender also.
  • Fever- this may occur on and off for 1-2 weeks.
  • Tiredness- people who get Glandular Fever are often tired for a few weeks afterwards. Less commonly, people complain of long term tiredness or “Chronic Fatigue” lasting months or even years after Glandular Fever.
  • Enlarged lymph nodes or “glands” – this can include glands in the neck, armpits and groin.
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting sometimes occur
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Rash- some people with Glandular Fever get a rash on the trunk or arms
  • Enlargement of the liver
  • Enlargement of the spleen- the spleen is an organ in the upper left part of the tummy, just behind the lower ribs. Its usual role is in fighting infection- it does this largely by “filtering” the blood. In about 50% of Glandular Fever cases, it can swell and enlarge. Rarely (in less than 1% of cases) the spleen may rupture- leading to sudden severe tummy pain.
  • A widespread raised itchy rash can occur if a person with Glandular Fever is mistakenly given an antibiotic called Amoxicillin for their symptoms- that’s why Amoxicillin should not be prescribed as treatment for a sore throat. The same problem can occur with the antibiotics Co-amoxiclav and Ampicillin.
  • Neurological complications are rare but include viral meningitis and encephalitis.
  • Jaundice- this is when there is yellow discolouration of the whites of the eyes and the skin. It affects about 4% of people who get Glandular Fever.
  • Hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) is rare
  • In the longer term, the Epstein Barr Virus can trigger certain forms of lymphoma

How do you get Glandular Fever?

  • It is usually spread through saliva, or droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air.

How long does it take symptoms of Glandular Fever to develop?

It can take from 30 to 50 days for symptoms of Glandular Fever to show, following exposure to the virus. However, around 50% of the time, it is a “silent infection”, and the person is unaware they have it.

If you have symptoms of Glandular Fever, you should see your doctor for assessment and advice.

symptoms of Glandular Fever
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About the Author:

Aifric Boylan
Dr Aifric Boylan is an experienced GP based in Melbourne. She completed medical school at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, and undertook specialist training as a General Practitioner. She has 10 years experience working in General Practice and currently works as a full time family doctor in Melbourne, with a special interest in women’s health and paediatrics. She is a medical writer, covering common health issues in General Practice, as well as publications and opinion pieces in the medical press.

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