Glandular Fever

What is Glandular Fever?

This is a disorder that commonly attacks adolescents, particularly girls in the 15-25 year age group. It is caused by a virus called the Epstein-Barr virus (EB virus for short), and can produce debilitating symptoms that may persist for weeks or even months. A sore throat and swollen glands under the jaw, and later in almost any part of the body (armpits, groin etc) may occur. These become tender.

There is often a fever, poor appetite, aches and pains all over, frequently depression and disinclination for one’s normal activities and interests. Diagnosis is confirmed when the Paul Bunnell blood test or a serum antibody test yields a positive result, although this does not always occur. The disorder is not highly contagious. It is chiefly of nuisance value, for when the acute symptoms subside, so many feel generally off-color, depressed and unable to get back to normal duties with their usual bright, happy disposition and enthusiasm.

However, the outcome is invariably satisfactory. Unfortunately, treatment is mainly symptomatic, for there is no effective antibiotic against this virus. As glandular fever is essentially a disorder of the body’s lymph gland system, it is considered in detail in that part.

We seem to be hearing more about this strange disease. What is it all about? Glandular fever, or, to use its technical name, infectious mononucleosis, has skyrocketed to prominence over the past few years for various reasons. First, it is more common in adolescents, and is laughingly referred to by many as the kissing disease, or the disease of lovers, and so on.

After many years, it has been found the disease is caused by a special germ called the Epstein-Barr virus. This is often contacted during early childhood, way back in the first two to three years of life. At the time, no symptoms occur, but years later, they can suddenly erupt. During infancy the complaint is rare. The late teens are when it is more likely to cause trouble.

Glandular Fever Symptoms

A gradual onset of fever up to 38.9°C (102°F) is accompanied by a sore throat, swollen glands under the jaw, and elsewhere in the body, feeling distinctly unwell and possibly an enlargement of the liver and spleen, the two large organs located under the lower rib cage.

With obvious symptoms that steadily worsen and fail to respond to simple, do-it-yourself measures already outlined, she should call the doctor.

Glandular Fever Treatment

If there are plenty of similar cases around, diagnosis are often easy for the professional. But certain tests may be carried out that will quickly give the right diagnosis. These are based on testing samples of blood. Certain cells are present in the blood, and also a specific test will tell if the disease is glandular fever.

What kind of treatment is prescribed? As with so many of the viral infections, there is no special antibiotic that will destroy the germ. We hope to have one some day. Usually the patient is put to bed until the fever has subsided and he feels better. Fluids, vitamins, antipyretics (drugs such as paracetamol that will reduce fever and pain) all give some assistance.

The doctor will tailor-make a special routine for each patient. Sometimes severely infected patients may need hospital care, but this is unusual.

Recovery may take anywhere from two four weeks, and in severe cases, several months. Depression and psychological problems occur, often worse in teenagers studying for exams and miss school for prolonged periods of time. But fortunately, recurrences are rare; the on-term outlook is good, and seldom does a patient die from the complaint.