Coxsackievirus: I Don’t Love The Sound Of That
It’s that time of year – we’re back in the school flow and we’re feeling pretty good. A little too good, actually. Nothing can stop us now! Unless, of course, our kids come home with some sort of contagious illness like Coxsackievirus, otherwise known as “Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease”.
Parenting is hard enough, so throwing in a strange childhood illness that’s on the rise, and giving it a name like “Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease”, is no bueno.
The first time a new parent hears that their child has Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease (HFMD), a few thoughts come to mind:
- “Was it the petting zoo?” No, that’s Foot (Hoof) and Mouth disease that affects cattle, sheep, and swine.
- Perhaps we could’ve come up with a name that didn’t sound so similar to the disease that affects cattle, sheep and swine. For another time…
- “Then WTH is this??” Sometimes referred to as "Coxsackie," this virus is quite common and, you guessed it, super contagious! HFMD is absolutely no fun, but there are things you can do to help your sick child feel better.
What is it?
Most often caused by the coxsackievirus, children under 5 are most susceptible, although anyone – even adults – can get it. (One of the WB moms may have even gotten it last year and given it to several of her husband’s golfing buddies. Whoops.) However, most adults have strong immune systems that protect against HFMD.
Here’s What To Expect:
Back To The Contagious Part…
It’s likely your little one picked up HFMD at daycare or the playground. The virus can be transmitted through body secretions like nose and throat mucus, fluid in the blisters, and stools. The week your child shows symptoms is when the virus is most contagious, although the virus can be transmitted for weeks afterward. Because it’s so highly contagious, your daycare or school should be informed immediately upon noticing symptoms. They’ll need to make other parents aware so they can keep an eye out for symptoms in their own child. In most cases, you’ll need to keep your child home until the fever goes down and the blisters are no longer open.
How should I care for my child with HFMD?
In most cases, the condition lasts between seven to ten days, and there’s really not much you can do other than monitor your child’s temperature and ensure they are eating enough. In severe cases of HFMD, your child will feel so miserable they won’t want to eat or drink anything. This can lead to malnutrition and dehydration so you’ll need to continue monitoring to be sure your child takes in the proper amounts of food and water. Foods like ice cream, gelatin, applesauce, and anything else that doesn’t require much chewing, will help get calories in without irritating mouth sores. Of course, avoid anything acidic (like orange juice or tomatoes) as well as anything salty or spicy.
If your child is at least 3 months old, then your pediatrician may prescribe a dose of acetaminophen. For babies at least 6 months old, ibuprofen can also help. If your child is over a year old, there are liquid remedies that can help soothe mouth sores, so be sure to ask your doctor for recommendations.
(You may want to try this "Magic Mouthwash"; it could be a lifesaver!)
Can my child get HFMD more than once?
Wish we could say “no,” but unfortunately, HFMD is similar to the cold in that many viral strains exist. So while children can develop immunity to the specific strain that caused the sickness in the first place, many others exist.
How can I prevent HFMD?
There is no vaccine for HFMD, so to prevent it, be sure your child and even babies wash their hands regularly. Also, always disinfect toys and other objects that might have germs on them – especially those that are shared with multiple children. And, of course, avoid infected children.
Although HFMD is very common, as long as you take proper precautions, your child will be less susceptible to catching it. Just have a lot of sanitizer ready if they do!
PS - In case you were wondering why the disease is sometimes called Coxsackievirus, it's named after Coxsackie, NY, the town in which the virus was first isolated. #TheMoreYouKnow
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