Glandular fever - Symptoms 

Symptoms of glandular fever 

Symptoms of glandular fever take around one to two months to develop after infection with the Epstein-Barr virus. This is known as the incubation period.

Common symptoms

The most common symptoms of glandular fever are:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or above
  • sore throat – usually more painful than any previous throat infection you may have had
  • swollen glands (nodes) in your neck and possibly in other parts of your body, such as under your armpits

In addition to throat pain, you may also have:

  • swollen tonsils
  • the inside of your throat may be very red and ooze fluid
  • swollen adenoids, which are two lumps of tissue at the back of your nose
  • small purple spots on the roof of your mouth

Other symptoms

Other symptoms of glandular fever include:

  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • a general sense of feeling unwell
  • a headache
  • chills
  • sweats
  • loss of appetite
  • pain behind your eyes
  • swelling of your spleen – this may cause a noticeable and tender swelling or lump in the left side of your abdomen (tummy)
  • swelling or "puffiness" around your eyes
  • swelling of your liver – this usually causes mild pain and tenderness in the lower right side of your abdomen
  • jaundice – yellowing of the whites of your eyes and skin

The course of the infection

In most cases of glandular fever, the symptoms will resolve within two to three weeks of the initial infection. Your sore throat will be at its worst for three to five days after symptoms start before gradually improving, and your fever will usually last 10 to 14 days.

Fatigue is the most persistent symptom and can last for several weeks. However, in about one in 10 people fatigue lasts for up to six months. Most people will be able to resume normal activities within one to two months.

When to seek medical advice

You should contact your GP if you suspect that you or your child has developed glandular fever.

While there is little that your GP can do in terms of treatment other than provide advice and support, blood tests may be needed to rule out less common but more serious causes of your symptoms, such as hepatitis (a viral infection that can cause liver disease) and HIV.

Seek urgent medical help if you or your child experience any sudden, intense lower abdominal pain.

Page last reviewed: 24/10/2012

Next review due: 24/10/2014


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The 11 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

mebrad14 said on 21 March 2014

I don't know whether I have GF or not - hoping some one can give me some advice. I had a scratchy sore throat all day yesterday, and last night I really struggled to swallow, with my throat feeling swollen and tender. This morning, I nearly lost my voice, and my throat is still really sore and tender. I have never had a sore throat like this before, and I have feel unwell and tired.
Any feedback would be useful. Thanks

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oneofeight said on 23 December 2013

Ellebee, sounds like you've really been thru the mill! Hope u recovering now. I've had glandular fever when I was in my teens and think I may have it again, even tho the symptoms are different. I have most of the symptoms but they are only affecting the left side of my face neck and chest. My eye is sore too and I have a blocked nostril, again on the left. Its xmas week so gp wont be open for ages. Can't decide if I have GF or just a cold or whether the cold is part of the GF. I have noticed that one of the other sufferers started with a cold too? Anyone have a more foolproof way of self diagnosis?

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ellebee1995 said on 11 November 2013

I got diagnosed with glandular fever the week before my first A level exam this summer, prior to that I'd had tonsillitis once a month every month since November last year. I had a Drs note explaining everything to school and that got sent off to the exam boards meaning I was allowed to do my exams in a comfy room and have breaks if I needed it (I had been throwing up violently from the Friday after I was diagnosed until the night before my exam even with anti sickness tablets)- got through all those and had the rest of the school year off. During that time I started to improve until my mum went into hospital and I went back a month in my progress, in September I return to 6th form and was fine until November when we had a family issue. Over a week on and I'm exhausted and I'm sleeping for more that 9 hours a night with naps throughout the day, doctor is now retesting for glandular fever but also checking for thyroid problems or anaemia. Honestly feel like a pin cushion this year the amount of blood I've had taken, but I'm over the needle phobia now, my immune system definitely knows how to get me when I'm down:(

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Martyn6764 said on 09 November 2013

I have tonsillitis all the time , very painful too!
Recently it's been hurting more the doctor thinks
I have glandular fever I have most of the symptoms. But nothing is relieving my pain I've tried so many different things I'm so upset because I have exams at the moment and I'm missing out in my courses.
Can someone help?!

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lewluke said on 10 May 2012

i am currently on my first year of university and my exams are 1 week away, 2 weeks ago i started getting cold symptoms and swollen glands. now i have puffy eyes, noticable swolen glands, hard to swollow and my nose is emflamed, the worst as most people have is the fatigue, i wake up pills take hours to come into effect and im no good for 3-4 hours, then all i want to do is sleep, i cant revise well and no that it is just going to get worse, im having trouble sleeping as my throat is dry when i wake up every... 30 minutes or so anyone had this and got any ideas to help me sleep ?

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sammymorrison said on 01 April 2012

i've been feeling unwell for around 3 weeks now. my head and throat seem to be extremely sore, there are little lumps on my neck that are said to be 'swollen glands.' i've been having back pain and i've been feeling just really exhausted. a friend of mine had glandular fever a few months back and said i have the same symptoms as she had. i dont want to sound like a hypochondriac but i believe she's right.

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Maure said on 12 February 2012

I have been treated for an eye infection these past few weeks, but 4 days ago, my throat began to really hurt to swallow, then got worse, could hardly swallow it seemed to close a bit and my right gland was swollan, now its dropped into my chest, hurstling, and coughing now, wheezing chest, I havent been near my doctor but was thinking of going in the morning as am unsure now what it is I have got.
The symptoms sound very like it could be glandular fever though.
I have been suffering from stress lately and am taking med for that, and trusting to God for His help.

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kerrielouisexo said on 08 February 2012

I had glandular fever in the summer of 2009, and being still at school it wasn't good for my grades, especially as I had exams at that time.
I had 3 doctors appointments with 2 different doctors, the only symptoms I had were swollen eyes, I had a cold at the time too but didn't see the connection, neither did the two doctors! First they thought I had an eye infection, and one thought it was hayfever as I am a sufferer! After a week of eyedrops and tablets that did no good I went to see a different doctor because I also had swollen lips, at this point it was clearly NOT an eye infection! the doctor straight away thought it could be glandular fever, and sent me for blood tests. I was out of school on and off for about 3 months as I could not last a full day at school due to fatigue.

Now almost 3 years later I have it again, relapses are common apparently!

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healthily_curious said on 11 November 2011

I've had glandular fever for over 2 months now and apparently after having tests (blood,swab) I did have it but it's gone now. My glands in my throat are still massively inflamed and swallowing is hard so I'd say I still have it. Same with me, doctor has definately been less than useful. Possibly because there isn't really anything they can do but it is really frustrating, especially with the added bad breath issue!

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kim388 said on 24 October 2011

Hi does anyone know if this can cause an adult to go delirious and act like a 2 year old, my mom has all the other symptoms along with a bad cough and lots of giggling and throwing things around like a naughty child and is there anything we can do to help the situation?

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joanne1971 said on 05 May 2010

I've had glandular fever for approx 3 months now and still feel totally wiped out. seem to pick up anything thats going around aswell thanks to my two children. having this is very much like flu/low iron at the same time and its causing many problems with diegestion. how much longer will this last? my doctor has been less than useful.

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Glandular fever in older adults

In rare cases, glandular fever can affect older adults (40 years old and over). In such cases, the pattern of symptoms is often different.

Around half of older adults with glandular fever will not have a sore throat or swollen glands and will only have a high temperature. Jaundice is also more common, affecting one in five older adults.

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