York Student Health

Glandular Fever


Most cases of glandular fever are caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). If in early adulthood you are not yet immune to the virus, the symptoms of Glandular Fever develop on exposure. EBV is spread through saliva, which is why it is known as the “kissing disease”. But coughs, sneezes and shared utensils can spread glandular fever, hence why it is problematic if living with others while at university or college. You can be contagious for up to 18 months after contracting glandular fever but usually this period is about 2 months. Immunity develops effectively so it is rare to get Glandular Fever more than once in your life.


The three most common symptoms are:

  • High temperature
  • Sore throat – usually worse than in normal colds
  • Swollen glands in your neck and possibly elsewhere eg. under your armpits

Usually symptoms last for around two weeks. A sore throat will be at its worst three to five days after symptoms begin, but will gradually improve. Fatigue will be the longest lasting of all symptoms, often lasting over a month.


There is currently no cure for glandular fever but you should contact your doctor if you suspect that you have developed it as they will perform some blood tests to confirm this. You will need to rest for a couple of weeks and then gradually get back into your activities. Drink plenty of water, gargle salt water and reduce pain through paracetamol. Follow common sense precautions, such as not kissing other people or sharing utensils for a couple of months while you are still contagious. Patients shouldn't consume alcohol or participate in contact sports.

Visit the NHS website for more information on Glandular Fever.

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