Sex Advice: What Are The Chances I’ll Get Mono?

“How easy is mono to get from brief sexual contact?” — Curious About The Kissing Disease, via email

Mono, short for mononucleosis, is known as “the kissing disease,” and is easily transmitted through saliva. So unless you’re not making out during sex (who are you, Julia Roberts?), then you’re able to get it through sexual contact…even the very brief kind. (FYI, he might want to get that checked out.)

As a matter of fact, I can tell you I’ve had mono three times. The first two times I got it I hadn’t even HAD sex yet, and was not making out with anybody (blame braces and red eyeglasses). I just happened to share a beverage or two with people at some high school parties. If I had known my entire Spring Break would have been ruined that one year, I would have saved my six-pack of Zima for myself. Usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (which is in the herpes family of viruses), you’re most likely to get it between the ages of 10-35. Once you’re exposed, you might not feel sick for a couple months. When you do, symptoms can include swollen glands and high fever*. It can also make you feel super TIRED. In fact, you can still feel tired for weeks after the virus has run its course. That’s because the virus stays with you FOREVER (I’m actually falling asleep as I’m writing this). Even though it stays with you forever, doctors say you stop being contagious after 18 months or sooner.

While technically it’s “easy” to get mono from brief sexual contact and kissing, the statistics are that only 50 to 100,000 people get mono (two out of 1,000 for teens and young adults). I rarely win anything…so interpret those odds however you like.

*If you exhibit any of these symptoms, you should have your doctor perform blood tests, as the virus can enlarge your liver or spleen and has to be monitored.