I'll never forget my first fraternity party. At Bama, your first fraternity party is sacred. Some of the girls I went out with that night I had just met for the first time and I am still close with as my junior year is unfolding. I even live with three of them.

wine, cake
Kate Steiner

I had a general idea of what was going to happen: I'd make some new friends, get a little tipsy, dance, and hopefully talk to some boys... every doe-eyed, naïve girl’s dream. In a way, all of those things did happen. I met my best gal pals, got more than a little tipsy, I don’t know if you’d call sloppy stumbling and swaying to the music dancing, but it counts, and I mingled with some boys as well.

However, I did not expect to acquire a mononucleosis aka "mono" or “the kissing disease." I sincerely thought mono was an old wives’ tale, an urban legend that our parents tell us to scare us out of kissing. It’s not though, in case you were wondering. But of course I’m that one girl who doesn’t get it from kissing someone. Stay tuned for the explanation.

Some hot guy passed around a bag of dirt cheap wine with a nozzle at the bottom and everyone in his path took a pull, so I obviously wanted to as well—yay college! He cheered me on and high-fived me when I successfully slapped that glorious bag, then walked away. Little did I know, it was heavily contaminated with mono.  

This photo was taken seconds after: 

Kate Steiner

To this day, I don’t think I’ve seen that guy since, so it was basically for nothing. Oh well.

A week later, I woke up with a sore throat that wouldn’t fade with my usual remedy: two Advil, hot tea, and a nap. So the next day I hauled ass to the Student Health Center where I was told I had a kind of viral infection that usually turns into mono. I took some medicine, and when I still wasn’t feeling better after another week I went back to get a blood test. While waiting for the results, the nurse explained that every fall semester mono spreads like wildfire, especially among freshmen. Low and behold, I was no exception.

Freshmen aren’t usually focused on avoiding mono. They’re adjusting to being away from home, getting along with their roommate, making new friends, and partying. Oh and school. School is important too. Because college students are so preoccupied, it’s easy to forget about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and there are a lot of common mono myths that definitely don’t help when it comes to keeping track of yourself.

To clarify some of those myths, let’s play a good ol’ fashion game of True or False.

True or False?

You can only get mono once.

False. I’ve had it thrice. You heard me, three times. Tres. Tre. Trioux. Drei. Sān. You get the idea. I have four semesters of college under my belt, three of which I've had mono. My reasoning behind it is because I’m a bad luck magnet. My mom says it’s because I’m an overachiever. The third time is the charm.

The root of this myth comes from the prefix “mono,” meaning “one,” but that’s just a coincidence in this scenario. It’s uncommon to get it a second or third time but it is possible. However, the second time around wasn't as painful or as taxing, the third time around was even less. I often forgot about it and just needed to nap a lot, which I do anyway.

Mono is in your system forever.

True. The virus is harvested in your body forever even when you don’t actively have it, so it can flare up again. You can catch it again from an outside source too. Regardless of whether or not you get it again, you’ll always be a carrier, an incubus viral plague. It’s like getting married to mono: together in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

The second time I got it was from sharing a drink with a friend who didn’t know she had it yet. The third time was a relapse from excessive sleep deprivation. I pulled too many all-nighters studying for midterms so I was basically a zombie for a week straight. No good deed goes unpunished. I did get good midterm grades though!

There is a cure for mono.

False. There is no cure for mono. Take it from President Selina Meyer, that's a damn lie. If you have mono, you’re SOL. Mono is a virus, so antibiotics won't help. The only thing you can do is sleep, eat healthy, drink lots of fluids and call your mom crying everyday for six weeks. It's that bad. There are steroids that ease the soreness and joint pain, but they don’t make the virus go away.

The doctor I'd been seeing at the health center instructed me not to exercise because your spleen and liver swell up. Too much action can rupture those organs and you can die from that. This didn’t upset me at all (I rarely exercise). What did upset me, though, was when I found out you’re also supposed to steer clear of spicy food. No Chipotle for six weeks? Yikes.

Mono destroys your immune system.

True. I used to never get sick. That is no longer the case. My mom used to describe me with some old metaphor— “healthy as an ox.” Apparently oxen are very healthy. Good for them. Ever since I got mono for the first time I constantly get sick. If someone is sitting four tables down from me at the library with a cold, I’ll probably catch it.

In addition to that, every time I sneeze, whether it’s due to being sick, allergies, or even if there’s just a little dust in the air, my whole body gets extremely sore for a few minutes after. My face, upper chest, abdomen, arms, and knees feel like they’re on fire. It is god awful.

You get mono immediately after you contract it.

False. It takes a few weeks for it to kick in and show up on a blood test. Most cases take about a month, but being the overachiever that I am I got it in two weeks. 

Note: WebMDEvery Day Health, and Kid's Health are credible sources that provide factual information on health, but that does NOT mean you should self-diagnose based on the info on their websites. Don't become a hypochondriac. You'll drive yourself crazy. I went through a phase where I thought that a bad headache was an aneurism or that a bad stomachache was appendicitis. One time I had to pee a few more times that I usually have to and I thought I had type two diabetes.

The moral of the story is you need to be super careful when it comes to getting sick in college and be smart about diagnosing it. 

My advice:

coffee, beer
Spoon University
Sanitize or wash your hands every chance you get. To be safe, buy a pack of small surface wipes and wipe down your desk before every class (you'll look geeky, but it's worth not getting sick).

Even if they just have a cold, don't share a drink with someone who is sick, no matter how broke and desperate you are to get drunk. They might have pre-mono and just not know it yet. Whatever you do, don't kiss someone who is sick no matter how hot he or she is.

But most importantly... Don't slap the bag.