Glandular Fever


Glandular fever is caused by a virus that is very common. Most people are infected by the virus as a child and often get no or mild symptoms. You who are infected with the virus first as a teenager or adult get the symptoms that are common in glandular fever. Once you have had the virus, you become immune and cannot become infected again.

Symptoms of glandular fever

The symptoms of glandular fever described below are most common if you get glandular fever in your teens or as an adult. Children who develop glandular fever often have no symptoms or mild symptoms that may resemble a cold.

 Common symptoms of glandular fever:

  • You have a sore throat and have difficulty swallowing.
  • You have a fever.
  • You feel tired.
  • You have a headache
  • You are hurting your body.
  • You lose your appetite.
  • You have swollen lymph nodes on the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin
  • You have enlarged and red neck tonsils with a gray-white coating
  • You have a smelly breath

The symptoms are similar to those you may experience in throat flux but are often more severe.

You may also notice the following symptoms:

  • You get swollen around your eyes.
  • You have a rash on your skin.
  • You’re feeling bad.

It is common for the liver to temporarily swell with glandular fever. It usually gives no symptoms but some can get yellow eye whites. It is also common for the spleen to swell. It often does not cause any symptoms, but it is important that you avoid blows to the spleen. That’s because it can burst then.

These are symptoms of a spleen:

  • You suddenly get a stomach ache.
  • You feel dull and pale.
  • You get palpitations.

You may feel tired for a long time afterward

The symptoms usually go on for two to three weeks, but it is common to feel tired for an extended period, sometimes for several months afterward.

When and where should I seek care?

If any of the following is true of you, contact a health care center or an on-call clinic:

  • You have a sore throat and have a fever for more than two days without any other cold symptoms.
  • You have a hard time swallowing.
  • You get a fever again after being fever-free for at least a day.
  • You have any other illness or drug that lowers your immune system while you think you have glandular fever.

If closed, you can wait until the on-call reception or medical center open.

If you know you have glandular fever and get a lot of stomach ache, contact a health care center or an on-call clinic immediately. If closed, seek care at an emergency room.

What can I do for myself?

There are some things you can do yourself to relieve the symptoms of glandular fever.

Relieve sore throat

The appetite may decrease when you have a sore throat, but it is good to try drinking, even if you have difficulty swallowing. Cold and hot beverages can have a sedative effect on the throat. It can also feel good to eat cold foods like yogurt or ice cream.

Sometimes it feels better to have something to suck on and then you can try throat tablets that are available in pharmacies and in some grocery stores. The best thing for your teeth is to choose sugar-free tablets.

There are also lozenges and sprays that seem to be numb to the throat. You can buy them at a pharmacy without a prescription.

Some of these preparations can be used by both children and adults, but not all. Read the packaging or ask a pharmacy if you are unsure.

Medication for pain and fever

There are several different prescription drugs. Examples are drugs containing paracetamol and drugs belonging to the NSAID group, or cox inhibitors.

Here you can read about which prescription drugs are available and which may be suitable for you. 

Avoid alcohol

The liver is usually affected by glandular fever. Therefore, you should wait to drink alcohol for at least four weeks and until you feel perfectly fine.

How Does Glandular Infection Infect?

The virus that causes glandular fever is called Epstein-Barr. It infects through body contact and contact with infected mucous membranes. It can be spread if you who have glandular fever brush someone or, for example, share cutlery with someone. The virus can also spread by having sex with someone.

It usually takes between four and six weeks from the time you received the virus for the first time until you get symptoms.

You become immune if you have had the virus

Once you have had glandular fever, you have antibodies to the disease. That means you can’t get a glandular fever again. On the other hand, you can carry the virus without any symptoms. Then you can infect people who do not have antibodies.


At the health center, the doctor examines your throat. At glandular fever, the tonsils usually become swollen and red and have a grayish-white coating.

Then the doctor feels in the armpits, groins and other parts of the body where there are many lymph nodes to feel if they are swollen or sore.

Often, the doctor also feels on the stomach to determine if the spleen or liver is swollen. 

You can have blood samples and samples from the tonsils

You may also have blood tests to show if you have glandular fever.

Often you get blood tests that show if you have inflammation in the body. You may also get blood tests for white blood cells.

There are blood tests that can show directly if you have glandular fever. But often it is only when you have had the disease for a time that it appears in this test.

You can usually leave a sample from the tonsils. The doctor takes this with the help of a thin stick with cotton. The test does not show if you have glandular fever but can show if you have throat flux due to streptococci. The reason the doctor takes this test is that it can be difficult to distinguish between glandular fever and throat flux at the beginning of the disease.

Treatment of glandular fever

Glandular fever is caused by a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics. The treatment for glandular fever is aimed at relieving the symptoms. You can read more about it under the heading What can I do for myself?

You may get an infection with streptococci while having glandular fever. Then you will be treated with antibiotics for the streptococcal infection.

It is uncommon but sometimes the symptoms become so severe that you may need hospital care. This applies, for example, if you have a very hard time swallowing the liquid. Then you may need to drip for a shorter period.

Important to avoid effort the first month

The first month after you have had glandular fever, you should not put much effort into it. Avoid riding and sports with plenty of body contact. For example, it can be football, ice hockey, and martial arts. This is because the spleen can still be swollen and can then burst if, for example, you get a blow to the body.

However, you do not need to be completely still, walking and quiet activities make you get back into shape faster when you have recovered.

What happens in the body?

In glandular fever, it is common for the tonsils to become large and red with a grayish-white coating. They sit in the throat on either side of the tongue.

Lymph nodes found elsewhere in the body swell. Then you can feel them in the neck, on the sides of the neck, in the armpits and in the groin. There are also lymph nodes inside the chest and stomach but you can’t feel them from the outside.

The spleen can also swell but it can be difficult to feel it yourself. A doctor may feel it below the ribs on the left side. The liver can also swell, in which case you can feel it below the right rib arch.

Most people become infected as children

Glandular fever is caused by a very common virus. Most are infected with the virus when they are children and have no or mild symptoms. Most people don’t notice it then. People who were not infected by the virus as a child can have it later in life. Then it is called glandular fever.

Glandular fever and pregnancy

There are no known risks of getting glandular fever during pregnancy.

Complications and sequelae

Complications of glandular fever are uncommon. But after you have had a glandular fever the risk of you getting some other illnesses increases. It can be sinusitis, ear inflammation, deep respiratory tract infection, and appendicitis. It is very uncommon but some may have difficulty breathing by glandular fever. Then you can get help with breathing through a respirator.

A very rare sequela for glandular fever is meningitis.

Influence and participate in your care

You can seek care at any medical center or open specialist clinic you want throughout the country. Sometimes a referral  to the open specialized care is required.

You should understand the information

In order for you to be involved in your care and treatment of Glandular fever, it is important that you understand the information you receive from the healthcare personnel. Ask questions if you don’t understand. For example, you should get information about treatment options and how long you may have to wait for the care and treatment of glandular fever.

Children should also be involved in their care. The older the child, the more important it is.

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