Glandular fever

Glandular fever mostly affects teenagers and young adults. It gets better without treatment, but it can make you feel very ill and last for weeks.

See a GP if you have:

  • a high temperature of 38C or above
  • a severe sore throat
  • swollen glands - swelling either side of your neck
  • extreme tiredness or exhaustion
  • tonsillitis that isn’t getting better

These are glandular fever symptoms. You don’t usually get glandular fever more than once.

What happens at your appointment

Your doctor may organise a blood test to confirm it’s glandular fever and to rule out illnesses that cause similar symptoms, such as tonsillitis. This would test for the Epstein-Barr virus which causes glandular fever.

How to treat glandular fever yourself

There’s no cure for glandular fever. It’s caused by a virus so antibiotics won’t work.

To help you get better:

  • rest and sleep
  • drink plenty of fluids (to avoid dehydration)
  • take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen (don’t give aspirin to children under 16)
  • don’t drink alcohol - your liver may be weak while you have glandular fever

How long glandular fever lasts

You should feel better within 2 to 3 weeks. Some people may feel extremely tired for months.

Try to gradually increase your activity when your energy starts to come back.

Glandular fever can cause your spleen to swell. For the first month, avoid sports or activities that may increase your risk of falling, as this may damage it.

How to stop glandular fever spreading

Glandular fever is very infectious. It’s spread through spit. You’re infectious for up to 7 weeks before you get symptoms.

To prevent glandular fever spreading:

Do

  • wash hands regularly
  • wash bedding and clothes that may have spit on them

Don’t

  • kiss others (glandular fever is known as the kissing disease)
  • share cups, cutlery or towels

You can go back to school or work as soon as you start to feel better.

See a GP urgently or go to A&E if you have:

  • difficulty swallowing
  • difficulty breathing
  • extreme tummy pain

Glandular fever complications

Most people get better with no problems. Sometimes glandular fever may lead to other illnesses, such as:

  • lower level of blood cells, such as anaemia
  • an infection, such as pneumonia
  • a neurological illness, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome or Bell’s palsy

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.