What You Need To Know About The Three Stages Of Mono

Mononucleosis is often called the "kissing disease" because it is spread by saliva. But you don't have to smooch somebody to get it — it can also be passed by sharing food or utensils with an infected individual (via The Mayo Clinic). Caused by the "Epstein-Barr" virus, mono is more common in teens and young adults and has an incubation period of four to six weeks, meaning it's often hard to pinpoint how and when you got it.

When symptoms do present, they often do so slowly and can gradually progress, sometimes lasting up to six months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While there is no vaccine or cure for mononucleosis, doctors usually recommend bed rest and increased fluid intake. And while you'll be able to recover on your own, it's still important to get properly diagnosed if you suspect you have mono, so you can keep from spreading it to others. 

Many health professionals break down the symptoms of mono into three distinct stages, which can help you identify the illness early and seek professional advice and a diagnosis.

How mono progresses through three stages of illness

According to VeryWell Health, there are three stages of mono: prodrome, acute phase, and convalescent phase. Prodrome is the earliest stage and characterized by symptoms similar to the common cold like fatigue, loss of appetite, and sore throat. These symptoms usually last three to five days before mono progresses to the next stage.

The acute phase of mono is where more severe symptoms often occur including fever, swelling of the lymph nodes, rash, headache and body aches, exhaustion, and sometimes swelling of the liver, reports VeryWell Health. It's also during this time that rare but serious conditions can develop including jaundice, liver failure, and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). 

When the acute phase passes, you'll enter the convalescent stage where symptoms will lessen but can last for months (via VeryWell Health). Weakness and fatigue are the main symptoms during this period.