When a young child is sick, mononucleosis virus is not usually a diagnosis parents expect. However, this virus is not unusual in children under five. The symptoms and tests are different for children.  Although typically a minor disease in children, parents should be aware of possible complications.

In the North America mononucleosis, commonly referred to as mono or the kissing disease, is thought of as a teenager’s disease. However worldwide, mono is a childhood disease affecting children and infants more often than teenagers and adults. In undeveloped countries the average ages is 2 to 4 years according to DrPaul.com. Mononucleosis is an Epstein-Barr virus that is transmitted through saliva. It can be easily passed between children while sharing toys or drinks.

Symptoms in Children

You may be familiar with the mono symptoms of severe fatigue and flu-like symptoms that can last for months in teenagers and adults. However, in children and infants the symptoms are much less severe. Young children often appear to have a simple cold or flu virus that lasts for a few days to a couple of weeks. Children may also have a fever, sore throat and fatigue. Some do develop an enlarged spleen as well. However, young children often have no symptoms. 

Complications of Mono in Children

In rare cases the virus leads to complications in young children. Most often this includes dehydration because the child’s throat hurts too much to drink or an enlarged spleen and liver. Also, there is research to suggest that mono may trigger Kawasaki disease in young children, although the relationship between the two is not fully understood. Kawasaki disease “involves inflammation of the blood vessels” reports the NIH that can lead to heart disease in children. Symptoms include a high fever that lasts longer than 5 days, rashes, and strawberry tongue.

Testing in Children

The test for mono involves a simple blood test that detects antibodies that develop in response to the mono virus. The standard mononucleosis test used for teenagers and adults does not usually detect the virus in infants and children. For younger patients doctors will use a combination of more detailed antibody tests to confirm a mono diagnosis.

Mononucleosis Treatment

If your child has symptoms of the mononucleosis virus, then you should call your pediatrician for an appointment. Just as with teens and adults, the best and only treatment is to treat the symptoms and allow your child lots of rest. Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids and if she or he has an enlarged spleen, then physical activity needs to be restricted to prevent further injury to the spleen. If you child becomes dehydrated or their condition worsens, contact your doctor immediately.

In its mild form, you'll probably never know your child has the mononucleosis virus. This is the best case scenario as your kid will usually develop lifelong immunity and never experience the serious symptoms that mononucleosis can produce. However, if your child experiences a high fever or stops eating or drinking, then call your child’s pediatrician. Inform your doctor of any potential exposure to mono through older friends or siblings.