Mononucleosis—often known simply as “mono”—has an incubation period of one to two months. Once symptoms appear, recovery can take an additional four to six weeks. Until your physician tells you it is safe to resume more strenuous workouts, avoid any but the mildest exercise (e.g., short walks).
In many mono patients, the spleen—a large blood-filtering gland located in the upper-left part of your abdomen—becomes enlarged. Participating in contact sports or simply moving around too much can put you at risk for a ruptured spleen, a rare but possible complication of mono. If, despite taking precautions, you experience sharp abdominal pain, confusion, dizziness, fainting or blurred vision, contact your physician immediately. The doctor will then determine if you need to go to the emergency room.
It is also important to avoid exercise because too much activity during the first weeks of mono can make symptoms linger longer and be more severe than they otherwise would. This is true whether you initially feel fatigued or not.
One more point: Stay hydrated. When you feel feverish and are coping with throat and neck discomfort, you may not be interested in eating or drinking. But taking in lots of fluid will help your body counteract the virus causing your illness. In fact, to help the recovery process, you should try to consume at least twice the amount of fluids you normally would.
Typically, a person with mono experiences fever and pain from swollen glands for a week or two, followed by up to three months of fatigue. During the later period, listen to your body. If you feel up to a short walk and do not experience fever or dizziness, go ahead. When your physician agrees it is time for more vigorous exercise (usually after two to three months), we can design a physical therapy program to help recondition your body so you can eventually resume your prior level of activity.
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