Most of us think that as summer approaches all of those pesky winter viruses are gone. Although many common viruses are more likely to be passed around during the cold winter months, as summer approaches there is one virus that many parents may be dealing with—coxsackievirus. Coxsackieviruses are part of the enterovirus family of viruses (which also include polioviruses and hepatitis A virus) that live in the human digestive tract. Coxsackievirus is sometimes also known as hand, foot and mouth disease.
This virus is very contagious and is typically passed from person to person through nose and throat secretions (such as saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus), or feces of infected persons. This of course means that young children are particularly susceptible. In fact, the infection usually occurs in children under 5 years of age, but occasionally can occur in adults too. Outbreaks are seen most often in the summer and fall, especially in more temperate climates.
The good news is that coxsackievirus sounds a lot worse than it usually is. Most coxsackievirus infections aren’t serious. They typically cause only mild signs and symptoms, such as fever, sore throat, joint pain, and headache. Doctors usually diagnose it by the tell-tale blister-like rash on the hands, feet and in the mouth. This usually develops one to two days after the initial symptoms.
There is no specific treatment for coxsackievirus. It is a virus so antibiotics will not be effective in treating it. Most physicians recommend rest, fluids, and over-the-counter pain relievers or fever reducers when appropriate. There might be a slightly elevated risk for complications during pregnancy, so if you think you have it be sure to show it to your provider.
Hand washing is the best prevention for coxsackievirus. And of course if your child does develop this, it is important that she stays home from school or daycare until she is better so that other children do not become infected. The length of illness varies but it usually lasts for 2 or 3 days. Coxsackievirus is one of those things that most parents have to deal with at some point. Just know that soon it will be over and your little one will be back to her normal self.