Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease: Symptoms and Advice

By Dr. Elizabeth Triche, MD, MPH – CHCC Pediatrician

We have been having a lot of “Hand, foot and mouth” disease, caused by Coxsackie virus, in clinic in the past 2 weeks. It can cause high fevers and blisters or red spots in those areas, as well as cough, runny nose, and loose stools. Kids younger than two can get the rash all over their body, in addition to their hands and feet and mouth. Patients may just have the fever or the rash with no other symptoms.

If your child has this, the virus itself generally isn’t a big deal and their body should get rid of it in a week or so. There is nothing your doctor can do to speed this up (generally no clinic visit is necessary). The big thing is that the mouth lesions can be super painful, so keeping them hydrated and getting them to drink enough can be extremely challenging. IF THEY DO GET DEHYDRATED, TAKE THEM TO THE DOCTOR. Dehydration is very serious, and can be life-threatening. If they are urinating less than usual and it has been more than 6 hours since their last urine, they are already getting too dry. Later signs of dehydration are when they stop crying with tears or the soft spot on a baby’s head starts to appear sunken and they no longer have energy to wake up.

Tips for caring for a child with Coxsackie virus:

  • It’s okay if they don’t eat for a few days if they’re otherwise healthy kids, but they need to be drinking.
  • If they aren’t eating anything, they’ll need to take some drinks with salts in them (such as Gatorade, Pedialyte, or soup broth) to keep the salt levels in their blood from getting low.
  • Ibuprofen/Advil/Motrin is a much better pain reliever for this kind of inflammatory pain than Tylenol/Acetaminophen/MPAP.
  • Don’t give them any acidic foods or drinks (such as orange juice or pineapple) as this burns the open wounds in their mouth. Milk, water, popsicles, and jello are all soothing sources of hydration.
  • If your kid is having trouble drinking because of the pain, you can try “magic mouthwash” a mix of equal parts maalox, benadryl and lidocaine that can be painted on the lesions with a q-tip so they are soothed long enough to drink.
  • Please also note that they are VERY CONTAGIOUS. Be sure to wash your hands meticulously after touching their saliva or stools as they are contagious and shedding virus in these fluids

While this virus is generally self-limited and requires no medication or care from a doctor, we are always happy to see you at CHCC if you have concerns. If you believe someone’s health or life is in immediate danger, please call 911 or bring them to the CHCC Emergency Room. The advice and opinions presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the official views or stance of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation.