Mono in Babies, Children and Teens

Many parents are shocked when they receive a mono diagnosis in a young child. It tends to be more common in older teens and young adults in developed countries, but anyone of any age can get Infectious Mononucleosis.

In poorer countries, it's not uncommon to see mono in children as young as two or three years old.

Specific Symptoms in Children

Mono in children is often not detected. Young children, particularly babies and toddlers, will not exhibit many symptoms that are related to mono.

While teenagers and adults may have many symptoms, including sleepiness, swollen lymph glands, soreness and more, children often don't show any noticeable signs. Children with mono also often have large tonsils that typically look whitish and as many as 50 percent of infected children can also develop and enlarged spleen.

Even though these symptoms are very specific, often parents and sometimes doctors will simply diagnose the child with a severe cold. As a parent, it is your right and responsibility to push for more testing if you suspect your child has mono.

Often special treatment isn't required since the body will, if adequately hydrated, heal itself although the child may be incredibly tired for one or two months.

How Is it Spread?

Mono has long been known as the Kissing Disease since the virus is spread through the saliva. It's another reason why parents can be stunned to discover their child has mono. After all, no young child will be doing any French Kissing.

But mono can be spread in other ways as well. Saliva exchanges can happen with something as simple as sharing utensils for food. Young children chewing on the same toys can also spread the virus. So can sharing foods and drinks since the EBV can live for several hours in saliva outside the body.

My Baby Has Mono!

Someone recently told me that her one year old was diagnosed with mono. How, I wondered, did she know to have her child checked? How did she know there was something wrong?

How did the doctor diagnose that it was mono? Now that she knows her child has mono, what should she do with an active, lively one year old coping with this illness? These are all important questions and ones that will be discussed below.

Impact of Mono On Teens

Teens are fair game for mononucleosis, which tends to lead to chronic fatigue syndrome. What is the price of chronic fatigue in our teenagers? The authors of a new study claim that lingering fatigue may cause teens to push themselves much too hard.

During the course of a study, scientists followed 301 teenagers who had mononucleosis, a virus that tends to precede chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in adolescents.

Six months after the teens had been diagnosed with mononucleosis, 39 of the teens were found to have chronic fatigue syndrome.

This group was then compared to another 39 study participants who had been confirmed as having mononucleosis but had come to a full recovery at the end of six months. These two groups were then studied over a period of a further two more years.

High Price

By the end of the study, the researchers could discern no significant difference between the two groups in terms of the amount of physical activity they undertook prior to, during, or in the days after the infection.

But the teens afflicted with chronic fatigue syndrome were sleeping more during daylight hours and experienced much higher levels of fatigue. This suggests they were paying a very high price for forcing themselves to stay as active as their peers.

Mysterious Condition

This study was published in the September 2010 issue of Archives of Child & Adolescent Medicine alongside many other studies on chronic fatigue syndrome as it manifests in adolescents.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a controversial and mysterious condition that is thought to affect 1.3%-4.4% of all U.S. adolescents.

Another of the articles published in the journal discussed the importance of gaining some understanding about the disorder so that effective treatment might be provided to sufferers.

One study consisting of 54 adolescent chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers found that half of them were recovered after a period of two years, while the remainder of the teens still suffered severe fatigue and physical impairment.

A third study compared 25 kids suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome with 23 healthy peers and discovered many differences in the blood work of the two sets of kids.

Those kids with chronic fatigue syndrome were found to have differences in their white blood cells along with higher levels of C-reactive protein and cholesterol. Both of these are markers that suggest oxidative stress, which leads to cell damage.

The CFS kids also displayed lower values for vitamins C and E which are known antioxidants that serve to protect cells from stress. 

These findings appear to suggest some kind of detectable immune system abnormalities that underlie the CFS condition, say the study authors.

This finding may lead to new avenues of research which might lead to better treatments or even a cure for chronic fatigue syndrome. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health are also exploring the link between chronic fatigue syndrome and the xenotropic murine leukemia virus (XMLV).

Contagion in Chidren

While it often goes undetected, mono in babies and toddlers is still contagious, and is often picked up through saliva. The baby may have gotten it through saliva that another child left on a toy or through a shared cup, etc. The incubation period for the illness is far shorter than it is for adults, with a 1-2 week period rather than the 10-60 days that you'll see in adults.

When To Go To The Doctor

How then would you know that your child has mono? Certainly, if your baby or toddler seems to sleep a great deal more, to lose his appetite, or to exhibit fever over an extended time period, you should go to the doctor and present these symptoms.Often times, mono will be diagnosed when you've come to the doctor for another reason.

Treating Them

Mono can't be cured, but the symptoms can be dealt with to ease discomfort. If the child has a fever, you can give Tylenol. If they are extra tired, you can allow them the time they need to rest.

If they've been treated with ampicillin or amoxicillin while they have mono, they may get a pink rash all over their bodies. This is actually one of the ways that doctors will diagnose that a child has mono, when they have, unknowingly, been given these medicines.

Stay away from aspirin

Children should not, under any circumstances, be given aspirin. Speak to your doctor about medicines that you can use if your child has been diagnosed with mono.

Keeping Them Calm

This can seem like an oxymoron. How do you keep an active toddler calm? When they have mono, it is usually recommended that you do your best to keep them calm.

Sometimes, mono can cause an enlarged spleen, and it is very important for the patient not to take part in strenuous activities or contact sports with this condition. This can include play-fighting and wrestling with siblings, running around too much, and other active sports.

You should try, as much as possible, to keep your child's activities to a minimum and to see the doctor before allowing him to return to any energetic activities.

The good news is that the body will heal itself and the mono will pass. The tricky part, of course, is to help your child to take it easy and to relax while he is recovering. Mono will pass, and it will be just one of the many trials that you undergo with your little one!

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