Mononucleosis, often referred to as "mono," is a very common viral ailment that primarily affects young children and adolescents. It also is referred to as the "kissing disease" because it primarily is spread through the exchange of saliva. It also can be contracted when an infected person coughs or sneezes on another person.
Recently, my oldest son, who is 15, came down with mono and my wife Sandy and I addressed it through conventional medical treatment, proper nutrition and rest. However, before I explain what we did, I would like to alert my readers -- many of whom are parents of young children and teenagers -- to the symptoms of mono and signs of the disease.
Mono usually comes on gradually. The virus attacks the immune system with flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache and a general feeling of lethargy. After a few days, the lymph glands -- especially those in the neck, armpits and groin -- may begin to swell. Most mono patients develop a sore throat, which can be very severe, with inflamed tonsils. A fever that can rise as high as 104 degrees may also develop, and it can last up to three weeks. In many cases, it may affect the spleen and liver, but not seriously.
After a person has had mono, their body builds up immunity to the virus and they are very unlikely to get it again. Similar viral infections are possible, but not the same strain. Most mono patients recover in two to three weeks, although the fatigue may last up to one or two months.
The best medical treatment is simple bed rest, according to Dr. Michael Wasserman of Ochsner for Children in Metairie. Wasserman, who treated my son, explained that there are no specific anti-bacterial medicines that work against the disease. If the person who has contracted mono is on an exercise regimen, that regimen has to be suspended until the illness has passed. The less active the body is during the affected period, the better the chances are for a quicker recovery. During this time, doctors should be monitoring the patient's condition, checking for potential spleen and liver damage and other side effects of mono, Wasserman says.
"The bad part is that it keeps kids out of school and they have to make up their work," he says. "But you don't want to rush them back to school, either."
In my son's case, he made a speedy recovery, thanks to Wasserman's treatment. On our own, my wife and I used a restricted diet and certain nutrients to aid in our son's recovery. I did some research about mono, and the information I received suggested eliminating all simple sugars from our son's diet, moderating his protein intake so it wouldn't tax his liver, and altering his carbohydrate intake, inducing him to eat more low-glycemic fruits and vegetables.
Supplements we used during his recovery were acetyl-L carnitine, N-acetyl cysteine, and L-glutamine, all of which are amino acids. We gave him supplemental vitamin C and co-enzyme Q-10. We observed the effectiveness of our overall plan in helping to restore our son's immune system and mitochondrial function (energy level), while being cognizant of liver function.
Consequently, our son only missed three full days and two half-days of school. From that point on he was fine, although he had to be excused from physical education for two weeks. I do not make any recommendations or claims on how to treat mono. I am only citing my experience. A word of advice to all you parents: be alert to the symptoms of mononucleosis. If you suspect it in your children (or yourself) see your doctor immediately and heed his or her advice. Do not experiment on your own.