Glandular fever

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:

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if you have:

  • a very high temperature or you feel hot and shivery
  • a severe sore throat
  • swelling either side of your neck – swollen glands
  • extreme tiredness or exhaustion
  • a sore throat that's not getting better

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.


  • rest

  • drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration – drink small sips frequently if it's painful to swallow

  • take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen (do not give aspirin to children under 16 years old)


  • do not do strenuous activities like heavy lifting or playing sports

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:

Page last reviewed: 20 December 2023
Next review due: 20 December 2026