How Long Does Mono Last?

The acute stage can last 2 to 6 weeks, but recovery can take months

Start to finish, a mononucleosis (mono) infection can last months. However, how long symptoms of mono last can differ. They may only be present for two to six weeks, though some people can have lingering effects—especially fatigue—until the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) that causes the illness becomes inactive.

Even after symptoms have cleared, the virus can be passed in saliva for three months and remain potentially contagious for up to 18 months.

This article walks you through the stages of mono so you can get a better sense of what to expect and how to get over mono faster. It also looks at possible complications and ways to prevent getting mono or passing the virus to others.

Stages of Mononucleosis - Illustration by Danie Drankwalter

Verywell / Danie Drankwalter

Mono Stage 1: Prodrome

The first stage of mono is called the prodrome. Mono symptoms start to appear during this phase.

How long it takes for a person to start showing symptoms after getting infected is called the incubation period. This phase lasts about four to six weeks.

The symptoms of mono during this phase usually last three to five days and include:

  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Feeling "off" or uncomfortable
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Sore throat

You can also have mono without symptoms. Kids under the age of 10 may not show any signs of mono, or may only have very mild symptoms.

Mono Stage 2: Acute Phase

The second phase of mono is called the acute stage. During this time, a person's symptoms may start to get worse. Acute symptoms are often referred to as "classic" symptoms.

By and large, the acute symptoms of mono last for two to six weeks but may persist longer in some people.

Not everyone will experience every symptom of mono. Keep in mind that mono symptoms can also show up at different times over the course of the infection.

Mono Stage 3: Convalescent Phase

The last phase of mono is the convalescent stage. During this phase, a person starts to recover from the infection. The recovery phase for mono can last anywhere from three to six months.

By this stage, most mono symptoms have gotten better. However, some people may still feel weak and tired. During this time, if someone has an inflamed or enlarged spleen, they will need to avoid any physical activities that could lead to spleen rupture.

How Can I Get Rid of Mono Fast?

It can take a long time to get over mono and there's not much you can do to make the process go faster.

There's no cure or specific treatment for mono. Supporting your body as it heals and fights off the virus is the best thing you can do.

You can do this by:

  • Resting and getting plenty of fluids
  • Using over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications for pain and fever (Ask your provider before you use acetaminophen, as this medication can increase the risk of liver damage.)
  • Taking medications for inflammation, if needed

Providers may prescribe a corticosteroid for people with severe cases of mono.

Do I Need to Isolate If I Have Mono?

While you are sick with mono, you might be able to get other people sick for several months. That said, you don't necessarily need to isolate while you have mono.

The mono virus is mostly spread through your spit (saliva). Mono can also spread if you cough or sneeze close to somebody.

You may need to avoid kissing other people or sharing eating and drinking utensils with them for several months after you get mono to prevent giving them the virus. It will also help if you cover your coughs and sneezes and wash your hands frequently.

Complications and Long-Term Effects of Mono

People with severe mono can experience liver and spleen damage. There are also some other potentially serious complications of mono, such as:

The effects of these complications may persist even after you've recovered from mono itself.

Studies have shown that the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)—the most common cause of mono—might be linked to certain types of cancer, including Burkitt’s lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma.

Mono has also been associated with an increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.

Rarely, people with mono can develop a chronic active Epstein-Barr virus (CAEBV) infection. This can occur in people with a first-time infection or in people who have already recovered from the illness if the virus reactivates within the body.

Preventing Mono

If someone you interact with has mono, it's important to keep how long mono can last in mind. You can get mono if you are exposed to infected bodily fluids.

You can reduce your risk of getting mono by:

  • Avoiding exchanging body fluids with people who have mono or might have been exposed to someone with mono
  • Not sharing drinks and food with other people
  • Not sharing personal items with other people
  • Practicing good hand hygiene

Summary

Mono is a contagious illness that is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Mono has three stages: a prodrome, an acute stage, and a convalescent (recovery) stage.

Mono has a long incubation period, so it can be difficult to pinpoint when the illness actually started. On average, the prodrome phase lasts three to five days, the acute phase can last up to six weeks, and the final recovery stage can go on for up to six months.

There's no specific way to treat mono, but there are ways to support recovery. Drinking lots of fluids, getting plenty of rest, and taking medications for pain and fever can be helpful.

A Word From Verywell

Recovering from mono can take a long time, but rest assured that most people who get mono recover fully.

If you have symptoms of mono or were exposed to someone with the infection, it's important to touch base with your provider. They can support you through your recovery from mono and help you avoid complications from the infection.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does mono ever go away completely?

    Once you get mono, the virus will always stay in your body. However, it will not always be active. That means you won't always be sick and you won't always be able to spread the virus to other people.

  • What causes mono?

    Mono is most often caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, but about 10% of cases are due to other viruses. While having the virus that causes mono is very common, only a small number of people actually get mono.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Angelica Bottaro
Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.