By Emily Khaykin
Exhausted from a day at school, Lili Nanus ’11 arrived home and decided to lie down to take a nap before starting her homework. She fell asleep at 4 p.m., and didn’t wake up until 17 hours later.
“The scary part was that even after I woke up, I was ready to crawl back into bed,” Nanus said. “I knew that something had to be wrong.”
Nanus had gone to see her doctor several times, before she was finally diagnosed with one of the most common viruses caught by teenagers: mononucleosis. `
Mononucleosis, or mono, is spread through saliva. It is most common in people from ages 15 to 17, but the virus can be contracted by anybody.
“Most people have gotten mono but have never realized it,” pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Ouchie said. “For example, mono is especially hard to diagnose in small children because they have trouble communicating their symptoms. It usually seems just like the common cold.”
Throughout the beginning of her sophomore year, Nanus had been feeling exhausted, but seeing the same symptoms in her classmates, she contributed the weariness to lack of sleep. But as the weeks wore on the fatigue became progressively worse, Nanus said.
“I wouldn’t even be present in class, I would just kind of be in a daze the entire day,” she said.
“Unfortunately, there is no treatment for fatigue,” Ouchie said, “but steroids are sometimes prescribed to people who have swollen tonsils, which can make it hard for them to breathe and swallow.”
Nanus dropped out of her first period yoga class in order to allow more time for her to sleep and also switched from chemistry Honors to regular chemistry so that she could have an easier time completing her work at home.
“The range of severity generally depends on the person,” Ouchie said, “some people get mono and never even realize that they have it while some are confined to their beds with a fever and a sore throat.”
Nanus had mono from September to November of her sophomore year before noticing any change in her energy level.
Nanus’ relapse ended up lasting through the rest of her sophomore year.
“People with mono don’t usually suffer a relapse, even though once you have had mono, you always carry it around in your body,” Ouchie said. Now a senior, Nanus has had to write individual notes to the colleges she is applying to, explaining her drop in academic performance during her sophomore year.
“In some ways I’m thankful that it was such a visible drop from all my other years,” Nanus said. “I’m hoping that my other years will make up for it but I do wonder where I could’ve applied had I not had that one year.”
While Nanus experienced a very rare bout of mono, most people, such as Karen* ’13, experience symptoms for about two weeks.
“I had mono about a week or two into the beginning of sophomore year,” Karen said.
“I went to the doctor because my throat was just killing me,” she said. “At first they thought it was Strep [Throat], so they gave me a Strep test. When that came back negative, they gave me a blood test, which came back positive for mono.”
Symptoms for mononucleosis show up roughly four to seven weeks after the disease has been contracted.
“I think I hooked up with someone who had it,” Karen said. “I could kind of connect the two because I know I hadn’t shared any drinks or hooked up with anyone since.”
Out of the week Karen was sick, she only ended up missing a day and a half of school.
“It was really hard to focus in class, but I just kept myself caffeinated to stay awake, I was just so tired all the time and didn’t really get any real homework done,” Karen said.
Jason Mohr ’11 was another student misdiagnosed before realizing he had mono.
“I had mono back in ninth grade, but at first I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes,” Jason Mohr ’11 said. “I had all the symptoms, I sweat a lot and I drank a lot.”
Mohr also had a sore throat during this time, another sign of juvenile diabetes.
“I always felt feverish and felt like I had knives in my throat,” Mohr said.
Mohr had mono for three weeks until the symptoms wore off.
“All I did was drink water. I couldn’t eat anything because my throat hurt so much,” Mohr said. “I lost 25 pounds in three weeks.”
For the two weeks after Mohr returned to school, he only stayed for half of the school day and could not participate in P.E. because his doctor was afraid his spleen might rupture. A swollen spleen is another symptom of mononucleosis.
“I didn’t even watch television,” Mohr said, “I sat in bed, didn’t even go downstairs, and slept for basically three and a half weeks.”