Hand Foot and Mouth Disease: Coxsackievirus

It’s the second time it’s hit this summer: a raging fever and a miserable little girl. The pediatrician looks down her throat and confirms: coxsakievirus.

coxsackie 256x300 Hand Foot and Mouth Disease: Coxsackievirus PhotoCoxsakievirus is also called hand foot and mouth disease. Not to be confused with foot and mouth disease that sheep and cattle are susceptible to, HFMD is a different virus that can live in the human digestive tract.

Summer and fall are the prime times for this virus which effects mostly kids since it makes its way around through unwashed hands and toys, as well as sneezing and coughing. The virus is a stubborn one, too: It can survive on surfaces for several days making it extremely contagious.

According to Kids Health, coxsackievirus can present itself in several different ways. Half of the kids infected have no symptoms, while others suddenly develop a high fever but no other symptoms. Headaches, muscle aches, abdominal pain and nausea also can accompany the illness.

Because it can spread easily, kids with coxsakievirus should be kept home for a few days to prevent spreading the infection further, while the disease itself can last 7-10 days.

Doctors can typically diagnose coxaskievirus by viewing the sores on the inside of the child’s mouth. A swab test can be done to confirm the virus, but it can take 2-4 weeks for the results, by which time the virus has run its course.

Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for coxsakie other than medications that keep the fever down and pain to a minimum.  However, you should watch for symptoms of a stiff neck or back pain, which could point to aseptic or viral meningitis.

When else should you call the doctor? Here’s a checklist:

  • fever higher than 100.4° F (38° C) for infants younger than 6 months and higher than 102° F (38.8° C) for older kids
  • poor appetite
  • trouble feeding
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • difficulty breathing
  • convulsions
  • unusual sleepiness
  • pain in the chest or abdomen
  • sores on the skin or inside the mouth
  • severe sore throat
  • severe headache, especially with vomiting, confusion, or unusual sleepiness
  • neck stiffness
  • red, swollen, and watery eyes
  • pain in one or both testicles