Mononucleosis, or mono, is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, which is transmitted through saliva. Although the virus usually only impacts teenagers and young adults, it can also affect young children and toddlers.

Apparently mono in children often goes undetected. This is because young children (including toddlers and babies) usually have few or none of the symptoms that teenagers and adults have when they have mononucleosis.  Once affected by this virus, the body develops immunity to it and chances of contracting mono again are very rare.

However, the virus remains part of the person’s body for the rest of his or her life and he or she could infect others with the virus at any time. Children and especially toddlers may pick up this virus while playing with other children affected by the virus. A lot of toddlers like to put things into their mouth; this too is another easy way in which toddlers are exposed to the virus. If your child /infant become ill with mononucleosis they are far more likely to have ‘non-specific’ symptoms such as a loss of appetite or a fever.

For children, symptoms include fever, a feeling of tiredness, loss of appetite, skin rashes, etc. Some children may also develop swollen lymph nodes and an enlarged spleen, which are detected only after a thorough physical examination. Symptoms are usually noticeable four weeks after contracting the virus. However, most toddlers will remain asymptomatic, displaying little or no symptoms at all.

The symptoms of mono typically will not appear until 4 to 6 weeks after the toddler is exposed. At that time, the toddler will likely begin experiencing symptoms similar to those seen with a cold or flu. The child will typically have a sore throat, accompanied by a mild fever. With mono, the fever may spike quickly. Occasionally, the toddler will experience a mild skin rash. In rare cases mono can affect other organs such as the central nervous system or the heart.

There is no treatment for mononucleosis in toddlers, because this virus does not react to any antibiotics. However, the toddler should be made to feel comfortable, given plenty of rest, fluids and fever reducing medications. Prevention is often the best care for eliminating this virus. Teach children to avoid sharing cups and utensils with others and also maintain good hygiene and hand washing habits. Don’t allow the child to lift heavy objects or play too much, because mono causes the spleen to swell.