Course of Pfeiffer's glandular fever


Pfeiffer's glandular fever is caused by the Epstein Barr virus. This is a human herpes virus and is highly contagious. Kissing or sharing food can infect you.
The course of the disease is very different. This is shown by the fact that almost everyone in Germany at the age of 40 carries the virus, but only some of these people have lived through Pfeiffer's glandular fever. Everything is possible, from an asymptomatic course to classic symptoms to fulminant courses with complications.

The incubation period

The incubation period describes the period from infection with the virus to the onset of symptoms. During this time, the viruses multiply in the defense cells of the human body.

With Epstein Barr Virus, the incubation period can be anywhere from one week to seven weeks. During this time you are already contagious to others, especially shortly before the disease breaks out. Then it can lead to infection, especially if there are no symptoms and you do everyday things with others as usual.

The course of symptoms

During the incubation period of Pfeiffer's glandular fever, a general feeling of illness can arise. The classic course of the disease is then characterized by inflammation of the tonsils, swelling of the lymph nodes all over the body and fever. In addition, there is often a pronounced feeling of tiredness, difficulty swallowing, headache, loss of appetite and abdominal pain. The spleen and liver may enlarge, causing abdominal pain.

The symptoms are particularly present and severe in the first week of illness. In some of the cases, the disease is then healed.
In other people, the course is mildly mild or continues for up to three weeks. In 10% of cases, the weakened immune system leads to a superinfection with a bacterium that must be treated with antibiotics.
In a very small proportion of the sick there are serious complications, such as a ruptured spleen, involvement of the central nervous system or organ failure.

In small children, the course is often asymptomatic with unspecific disease symptoms. These can also be mistaken for a simple cold.

Find out more about the here Symptoms of Pfeiffer's glandular fever. or the Late sequelae of Pfeiffer's glandular fever

The duration of the illness

The duration of Pfeiffer's glandular fever is also different for each person. As I said, some experience an asymptomatic course or a cold-like episode lasting a few days.

If the disease breaks out and shows itself in its typical symptoms, these usually last one to three weeks.
In the event of complications, the duration of the disease is increased and can drag on for several months. In some cases, fatigue and physical weakness in particular persist over a long period of time.

Read more about the topic here: Duration of Pfeiffer's glandular fever.

How can you shorten the duration?

Pfeiffer's glandular fever cannot be treated causally, which means that you cannot combat the cause yourself. However, various methods can be used to alleviate the symptoms and shorten the course.

Basically, physical rest and bed rest should be observed. Not only because rest supports the body in its natural defense, but also because any trauma should be avoided in order to avoid rupture when the spleen enlarges. Antipyretic drugs such as ibuprofen or paracetamol also work against the pain and support the healing process. When the temperature rises, the body loses a lot of fluids, which should be compensated for with a sufficient amount of water and tea.

Since the pathogen is a virus, antibiotics must not be given. Some antibiotics, such as ampicillin or amoxicillin, even aggravate the course because they trigger a drug eruption in Pfeiffer's glandular fever. Except for superinfections with a bacterium, no antibiosis should be given.
Cortisone can be given if the tonsils are severely swollen and have difficulty swallowing.

More information on the topic Treatment of glandular fever you'll find here.

How can you recognize an asymptomatic course?

The occurrence of an asymptomatic course of Pfeiffer's glandular fever is particularly common in small children and babies. Either there are no symptoms at all or there are atypical courses with unspecific disease symptoms. This can be a poor general condition, fever, sore throat or other flu symptoms. Often this is mistaken for a simple cold.

Only a blood test can confirm whether an infection is actually present. However, it is questionable whether such a diagnostic effort is advantageous if the patient has no or few symptoms.

How do you recognize a difficult course

In principle, after the diagnosis, further treatment can be carried out at home. However, there are some indications by which one can recognize a severe course of Pfeiffer's glandular fever. Then there should be no hesitation in consulting a doctor. If you are short of breath or have severe difficulty swallowing, a doctor is advisable.

Severe headache, abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin or seizures are also indicative of a severe course. Even if the fever cannot be reduced with medication for several days, it is advisable to see a doctor.

How do you recognize a chronic course?

A chronic course of Pfeiffer's glandular fever is defined as the occurrence of certain symptoms even three months after the onset of the disease. This chronically active form of infectious mononucleosis is very rare and can affect adults and children.

Most patients have a fever with chills and sore throat. In addition, it can variably lead to pronounced fatigue, concentration problems, a generally reduced general condition and memory problems.

Through a laboratory diagnostic examination of the patient's blood, certain characteristic parameters can confirm a chronification.

Is there also a fatal outcome?

The prognosis for Pfeiffer's glandular fever is basically very good. Especially when you consider that by the age of 40, almost everyone has been infected once in their life. Almost all symptoms heal within 3 months, including most of the neurological symptoms.

However, the complications of the disease can lead to severe courses. If these complications cannot be controlled medically, in the worst case scenario it can lead to a fatal outcome. Dangerous courses can arise, for example, from meningitis, encephalitis, liver failure, kidney failure, heart involvement or a ruptured spleen. But this happens extremely rarely.