How is an Epstein-Barr virus infection treated?

There is currently no cure for an Epstein-Barr virus infection. Treatment includes measures aimed at relieving symptoms so that you are comfortable enough to get the rest you need to keep up your strength and recover without developing complications. Treatment of an Epstein-Barr virus infection includes:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), which reduce fever and minimize other symptoms of infection, such as headache, sore throat and body aches

  • Corticosteroid drugs, which reduce the swelling of the tonsils and throat that can occur in mononucleosis

  • Drinking extra fluids

  • Getting extra rest and sleep

Antibiotics are not prescribed for Epstein-Barr virus infections because they are ineffective against viruses. However, antibiotics may be prescribed if a person develops a secondary bacterial infection as a complication of an Epstein-Barr virus infection, such as bacterial tonsillitis. Antiviral drugs that are currently available also have no effect in treating Epstein-Barr virus.

Children and teenagers with an Epstein-Barr virus infection or other viral infection should not use aspirin or products that contain aspirin because of the risk of developing a rare but life-threatening condition called Reye syndrome. Reye syndrome most commonly affects children and teenagers and has been linked to taking aspirin during a viral illness, such as an Epstein-Barr virus infection, the common cold, or the flu.

Complementary and traditional treatments

Complementary and traditional treatments will not cure an Epstein-Barr virus infection but may help to increase comfort, promote rest, and maintain strength during an Epstein-Barr virus infection. Treatments include:

  • Chicken soup, which can help break up nasal congestion and provides easy-to-digest nutrients and extra fluids to help keep up your strength

  • Supplements or products that contain vitamin C, echinacea or zinc

What are the possible complications of an Epstein-Barr virus infection?

Rarely, Epstein-Barr virus infection or mononucleosis caused by the Epstein-Barr virus can cause serious, even life-threatening complications. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of an Epstein-Barr virus infection or mononucleosis include:

  • Anemia

  • Behavioral abnormalities

  • Blockage of airways by the swollen lymph nodes

  • Certain cancers, such as Burkitt's lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma

  • Fatigue that lasts for weeks or months

  • Hepatitis

  • Meningitis (inflammation of the tissues covering the brain) and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)

  • Nerve damage

  • Ruptured spleen

  • Secondary bacterial infection such as bacterial tonsillitis

  • Seizure


  1. Epstein-Barr Virus and Infectious Mononucleosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Mononucleosis. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

What is the Epstein-Barr virus?

The Epstein-Barr virus, also called EBV, is an extremely common virus that infects most people at one time or another during their lifetimes. Epstein-Barr virus infection generally causes a minor cold-like or flu-like illness, but, in some cases, there may be no symptoms of infection.

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What are the symptoms of an Epstein-Barr virus infection?

Symptoms of an Epstein-Barr virus infection vary greatly among individuals. Toddlers and adults may experience no symptoms at all, but are still capable of spreading the infection.

General symptoms of an Epstein-Barr virus infection

Symptoms of an Epstein-Barr virus infection are often mild, vague, and similar to symptoms of a cold or the flu. Symptoms include:
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What causes an Epstein-Barr virus infection?

Epstein-Barr virus is a member of the herpesvirus family of viruses. The Epstein-Barr virus is contagious and spreads from person to person through intimate contact in which saliva is exchanged. This is why mononucleosis, which is often caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, is commonly referred to as “the kissing disease.”

The Epstein-Barr virus can spread from person to person by suc... Read more about epstein-barr viruscauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 1, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases

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