Glandular Fever In Kids: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

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Glandular fever in children can cause flu-like symptoms with swollen lymph nodes. This condition is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and is also known as infectious mononucleosis or kissing disease. Glandular fever can affect children and adults, and most people contract it at least once in their lifetime. Both girls and boys are equally affected. Usually, children get the disease through close contact or using the personal items of an infected person.

Read on to know the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of glandular fever in kids.

Glandular Fever In Kids And Teens

Glandular fever is contagious and spreads from one kid to another through saliva (hence the name kissing disease). It is a common viral infection that affects adolescents and teenagers. Don’t be so quick to link teenagers and the kissing disease, for the infection may also spread to younger kids and adults.

The infection has an incubation period of four to six weeks, which means the symptoms of the illness are evident only 30-50 days after the virus has entered the body. Kissing is the easiest way to spread the virus, but toys used by children, utensils, and cups are also carriers of the virus. Sneezing and coughing are other means through which the virus spreads.

Usually, children with glandular fever are contagious as long as the virus is active, which is at least two months on an average. That can go as long as 18 months in some cases.

What Causes Glandular Fever?

Glandular fever is an awful viral infection that is easy to catch, in the absence of proper hygiene. It is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which passes through saliva.

  • Your kid can catch the virus when someone infected with it kisses him or her.
  • The virus also spreads when the child is exposed to an infected person’s coughs or sneezes.
  • Sharing toothbrushes.
  • Sharing drinks and food from the same containers.

One positive thing is that once the kid gets infected with this disease, he or she is immune to the virus for life.

What Are The Symptoms Of Glandular Fever?

How do you know when your child has a glandular fever? Considering that the incubation period is over a month, what signs and symptom should you look for to treat the illness early on?

The following symptoms of infectious mononucleosis in children will gradually appear from about four to six weeks after they are infected by the virus.

  • Sore throat – for a lot of people, it begins with this. In fact, the presence of severe tonsillitis is suspected to be glandular fever. Children have difficulty swallowing even liquids.
  • Nausea
  • Swelling of the glands in the neck
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Malaise and fatigue – this is one of the most painful symptoms of glandular fever. Fatigue and a general sense of tiredness can last for months together.
  • Hives or rashes on the skin – caused due to the fever. These rashes are not contagious and do not spread the infection. However, they are extremely itchy and may compel the child to scratch and aggravate the rash.

In rare cases, the child may show no signs of infectious mononucleosis at all, in spite of being infected by the EBV. Other than the fatigue, most of the other symptoms pass after a couple of weeks.

When To Call A Doctor

Ideally, the symptoms of glandular fever usually fade away after two-three weeks. The symptoms should subside, and the child might start to feel better, a little if not a lot. In some cases, the symptoms last for months. And, if the fever and the sore throat don’t subside even after two weeks, a trip to the doctor is a must.

A trip to the doctor may also be a good idea to confirm if the symptoms are because of glandular fever and not something else. In very young children, the symptoms may be mild or non-existent. So diagnosing the condition becomes difficult without a medical professional’s help.

Complications Of Glandular Fever

Complications due to glandular fever are rare but can get serious if they do arise. Some of the problems that can occur include:

  • Extended fatigue, which lasts for months together – prolonged fatigue can be a real dampener as it prevents the child from leading a normal life for a long time.
  • Rupture of the spleen – one of the common symptoms of glandular fever is a swollen spleen, which can be delicate and vulnerable to damage. If care is not taken, there are chances of the spleen bursting or getting ruptured.
  • The number of red or white blood cells can go down, although slightly. The platelet count can decrease nominally. In most cases, the blood cell count improves in a couple of weeks.

Once infected, the body is immune to the virus for a long time, usually a lifetime. So the chances of your child getting a glandular fever more than once are very low.

How Do You Diagnose Glandular Fever?

In young children, the symptoms are mild or non-existent, which makes diagnosing the illness difficult. To confirm the diagnosis, doctors would examine the child completely, and also ask questions about where he spends time and when he started showing the symptoms.

The doctors might also suggest blood tests – one for detecting the presence of antibodies and the other for knowing the white blood cell count. If the number of white blood cells is unusually high, then there is an infection in the body.

Glandular Fever Treatment And Home Care

There is no specific treatment for infectious mononucleosis. However, the symptoms of this disease wane away on their own, and cause little harm to the patient. The only way to help a child is by alleviating the symptoms. Here are a few home care tips that you can follow to fight the symptoms of glandular fever.

  • As fatigue is the most common symptom, let the child get plenty of rest. Do not send the child to school as long as the virus is active.
  • Avoid vigorous exercises and activities to prevent a possible rupture of the spleen. This also prevents fatigue.
  • If the fever is high, drinking plenty of fluids can help keep dehydration away. You must take care that the child does not avoid drinking water due to sore throat as this can reduce the overall fluid intake.
  • Take antibiotics if prescribed by the doctor. Antibiotics will not treat the viral infection but can prevent any other bacterial infections. Antiviral therapy is not recommended.
  • Gargling can be a great way to soothe a sore throat.

Glandular fever is a viral infection. It is a common infection that may spread from one person to the other by contact. The infection is common since an infected person can spread it up to 18 months in some cases. Once you contract EBV, the virus stays in your body and is inactive. However, in some cases, it may reactivate but does not cause any symptoms, except for those with an already weakened immune system (1).

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Dr. Mansur Nasirov

Dr. Mansur Nasirov is an assistant attending physician at Tashkent Pediatric Medical Institute and is a pediatric surgeon at the National Children’s Medical Center, Uzbekistan. He did his fellowship in pediatric surgery from the Seoul National University and Clinical fellowship in Pediatric and Neonatal Minimally Invasive Surgery from the Samsung Medical Center.

Dr Bisny T. Joseph

Dr. Bisny T. Joseph is a Georgian Board-certified physician. She has completed her professional graduate degree as a medical doctor from Tbilisi State Medical University, Georgia. She has 3+ years of experience in various sectors of medical affairs as a physician, medical reviewer, medical writer, health coach, and Q&A expert. Her interest in digital medical education and patient education made... more