Written by Deena Blanchard MD, MPH.
"It's going around", is a common phrase I hear from parents. Right now, the normal seasonal increase in coxsackie virus (hand, foot, and mouth disease) is in full swing and we are seeing tons of kids with typical symptoms in the office. Even the mention of hand, foot mouth disease can send typically calm parents into full panic. I'm hoping after reading this article, that parents will realize that while this illness can certainly make your little one feel very uncomfortable, it is rarely life threatening or dangerous. Typically, with some time, love and good pain control, your little one will seem back to himself in a few days.
Here's are five things your pediatrician wants you to know about hand, foot and mouth disease:
1. It's a virus. Hand, foot and mouth disease is an infection that is caused by a virus known as the coxsackie virus. I like to tell parents, "it's a virus with a name." It is no different than your child having a cold, it is just a different set of symptoms. And just because a virus has a name does not mean it will make a child sicker or is more dangerous than other viruses. Fun fact: it is named after a town in upstate New York where the virus was discovered.
2. Symptoms can vary. Typical symptoms include: fever, sores on the back of the throat, fussiness, and a rash on the hands, feet and often buttocks. The rash typically looks like small red raised spots or bump and can look like blisters. The sores in the mouth can be very painful and may cause your little one to have increased drooling or decreased food intake. The rash is not usually painful but can sometimes cause a little itching. It is possible for a child to have hand, foot and mouth without having a fever. Not everyone who contracts this virus will have the exact same symptoms.
3. It's very contagious. The coxsackie virus is very contagious. It is spread by contact with an infected person's saliva, mucous, or traces of bowel movements. Children are most contagious while they have fevers and sores in the mouth. Good hand washing, especially after changing diapers, is super important. It is also important to clean toys, table tops and other things your little one is touching. Unfortunately, this virus has multiple strains, so even if your child already had this virus, he or she can get it again, even in the same season.
4. The treatment is NOT antibiotics. Since the infection itself is a virus, the treatment goals are keeping your little one comfortable and hydrated. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be very helpful with pain control. Dosing is weight based and can be found on the Premier Pediatrics website. Never give aspirin to children. Encourage your little one to drink, and try to give him or her cool liquids or foods. The cool temperature helps relieve throat pain plus it gives them liquids. If you have any concerns about your child (such as he or she seems unusually irritable or lethargic, has headache or neck stiffness, is refusing to drink, is running fevers for more than three days), you should call your pediatrician right away.
5. Yes, adults can get it! While, coxsackie virus is more common in children, adults can contract this illness as well.
Lately, it does seem like everyone has coxsackie virus. But try not to worry too much: the virus is rarely dangerous and typically resolves on its own with time. So, while it's a major bummer if your little one and/or you get it, you are in good company and can feel better knowing that, hopefully, your little one only needs 5 to 7 days to be up and running again. And don't forget that hand washing is the best method of prevention, so load up on the soap and water and get scrubbing!
This piece was originally published on Well Rounded NY, and written by Deena Blanchard MD, MPH. Dr. Deena is a board certified pediatrician working at Premier Pediatrics. Dr. Deena has provided health/parenting tips for outlets such as AOL, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, The Bump, The Daily News, and appeared on CBS and CUNY-TV. She is also a regular contributor for Big City Moms, Well Rounded NY, The Stir by Cafemom, and Momtastic. Dr. Blanchard joined Premier, after completing her residency training at Columbia University. There she served as a physician advocate for families as part of the family advisory committee and was awarded physician of the year in 2007. Prior to going to medical school she completed a Masters of Public Health at Temple University with a specific focus in health education. Dr. Blanchard attended medical school at Albert Einstein College of Medicine where she was awarded both Alpha Omega Alpha and the American Medical Women's Association Glascow-Rubin Achievement award. Dr. Deena Blanchard serves as a pediatric expert for brands including Ella's Kitchen and Newton.
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