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Swimming and glandular fever

This article initially set out to answer the question of whether you can go swimming with glandular fever.

However, chances are that if you have or ever have had glandular fever – or ‘infectious mononucleosis’ to give the infection it’s full title – you’ll realise the answer to that is no!

Instead, we’ve focused on how soon to return to swimming after glandular fever, and what precautions you should take when you’re back in the pool.

What is glandular fever?

Glandular fever or ‘Infectious mononucleosis’ (IM) commonly affects people aged 15-24.

It is caused by an infection, the Epstein-Barr virus, which is transmitted from person to person through body fluids, most commonly saliva.

For this reason, IM has become known as ‘the kissing disease’.

What you need to know about glandular fever and swimming

Symptoms

  • people are affected differently by IM. Some people may feel a bit under the weather for a couple of weeks, others can be quite ill for several months
  • initial symptoms include tiredness and a general sense of feeling unwell alongside a loss of appetite
  • after a few days a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes (typically in the neck) and a fever develops.

Treatment

  • antibiotics and antivirals are not recommended treatments for IM
  • drinking lots of fluid, getting plenty of rest and taking medication to help with symptoms (e.g. paracetamol) is usually the best advice.

Tips for swimming after glandular fever

So you’re past the worst of glandular fever and you’re looking to return to the pool.

Give yourself the best chance of a swift return to full health by avoiding the following:

  1. Training/competing until any fever, tiredness and sore throat subsides unless in exceptional circumstances (e.g. in competition where medical advice has been given). This is usually 14 days after you first became ill.
  2. Sprinting, diving, tumble-turns, kick sets, land-training and swimming in crowded lanes if you’re well enough to try aerobic swimming training for a minimum of 21 days after you first became ill. In a small number of people with glandular fever, their spleen (a blood-filtering organ situated just below the rib-cage) can become very enlarged and may protrude beyond the rib-cage increasing the possibility of it rupturing. This is very rare but serious.
  3. Vigorous exercise, particularly training which increases the pressure on the abdomen, as well as any situation which may result in being accidentally hit/kicked until at least 21 days after you first became ill. This is because physical examinations by a healthcare professional and ultrasound tests are poor at determining which people with glandular fever have an enlarged spleen as normal size varies enormously
  4. Participation in contact sports (e.g. water polo or synchronised swimming) for three months after you first became ill.
  5. Sharing water bottles as there is a long incubation period.

Additional Advice

You can find out general advice about infectious mononucleosis on the NHS website.

Health Fact Sheets

Swim England’s Health Commission group have developed a range of fact sheets on swimming with particular health conditions, written for competitive swimmers, the general public and to also assist those who support or advise swimmers.

Listed below is the current fact sheet library for people with health conditions.

To view and download fact sheets written specifically for people who support or advise swimmers, head to our Health and Wellbeing pages.

Health Fact Sheets

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