KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s often called the kissing disease, but there are lots of ways you can get mononucleosis or more commonly known as mono. According to Dr. Shannon Cohen with Children’s Hospital, mono is common and highly contagious.

The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which causes mono, is carried in saliva. It can be spread by kissing, sharing a toothbrush, drinking straw or eating utensil, and even sharing lip gloss with someone who has the virus.

Once someone gets mono, the virus stays in that person’s body for life. Cohen says this does not mean you are always contagious, but the virus can surface from time to time and risk infecting someone else. She added that you can be contagious with mono from the time you first become infected, but symptoms may not show for 4 to 7 weeks after.

Symptoms of mono

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Fever
  • Muscle Aches and Headache
  • Sore Throat
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes

Cohen says that it can be very serious and sometimes require hospitalization. Severe mono can cause swelling of the throat and tonsils that can lead to your airways ben obstructed.

Antibiotics do not work on mono, it has to run its course, and rest is necessary to recover. You can treat symptoms of fever with over-the-counter medication. Cohen shares that staying hydrated is key and that you may feel tired for weeks after having mono.

It’s hard to prevent mono from spreading, but Cohen says the best defense is frequent hand washing and not sharing anything someone has put their mouth on, like drinks and utensils.