Glandular fever is a viral infection that mostly affects teenagers and young adults. It gets better without treatment, but it can last for weeks and make you feel very ill.
Check if it's glandular fever
Glandular fever is most common in people aged 15 to 24 years old.
Symptoms of glandular fever may include:
- high temperature
- swollen glands, which may be in the neck, head, armpits, elbows, or groin
- sore throat
- a rash, which may be harder to see on black or brown skin
Urgent advice: Call NHS 111 if you have:
- difficulty breathing – you may be more short of breath than usual
- difficulty and pain when swallowing
Immediate action required: Call 999 if you:
- cannot swallow, including your own spit (saliva)
- have severe difficulty breathing – you're gasping, choking or not able to get words out
- have severe stomach pain
How to treat glandular fever yourself
Glandular fever should get better by itself, and you should start to feel better within 2 to 4 weeks.
There are some things you can do to help ease the symptoms.
do not do strenuous activities like heavy lifting or playing sports
Video: Self-care for glandular fever
This video explains how to treat glandular fever yourself.
Media review due: 1 June 2026
How to stop glandular fever spreading
Glandular fever is spread through spit, so you can get it through kissing or by sharing cups or cutlery.
You're infectious for up to 7 weeks before you get symptoms, and you may be infectious for several months after being unwell.
You can go back to work or school as soon as you start to feel better.
To prevent glandular fever spreading:
wash your hands regularly
wash anything that may have your spit on it
do not kiss others
do not share cups or cutlery
do not give blood
What happens at your GP appointment
A GP may order a blood test to confirm if you have glandular fever and to rule out other illnesses, like tonsillitis. The blood test will test for the Epstein-Barr virus, which usually causes glandular fever.
The GP will not give you antibiotics. Glandular fever is caused by a virus so antibiotics will not work.
Glandular fever complications
Most people get better with no problems. But sometimes glandular fever may lead to other problems like:
- liver conditions, such as hepatitis
- heart problems, such as inflammation of the heart
- kidney problems
- blood conditions, such as low levels of blood cells called platelets (thrombocytopenia) or sepsis
- neurological conditions, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome or Bell's palsy
- a ruptured (burst) spleen
- long-term tiredness (chronic fatigue) which may last for several months
Page last reviewed: 20 December 2023
Next review due: 20 December 2026