Even though it's the middle of summer, a particularly aggressive virus is attacking communities all across America. Almost all its victims are kids. It's the coxsackie virus, also known as Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. This is NOT to be confused with Mad Cow disease or Foot and Mouth disease, which are different.
Coxsackie virus is one of the few viruses that's common in the summer. It's highly contagious.
The good news is it usually clears-up on its own within 10 days, often sooner, with no lasting complications. But the bad news is its victims are in a great deal of discomfort while it's working it's running its course.
CBN News Internet producer Sarah knows about this first hand. Her 15-month-old Jay is recovering from the Coxsackie virus now. She said her first clue was his high fever and fussiness that kept him up in the middle of the night.
"He was inconsolable, which is not like him," she said. "Sometimes he's fussy from teething, but this was not the usually fussiness."
Then came the tell-tale rash a day later. As the virus' nickname implies, the rash is usually most noticeable on the hands, feet , including the soles, around the mouth and down the throat. As you might imagine, it's itchy and painful, making children climb the walls. Other areas such as the buttocks and genitals may be involved. Some kids deal with it in their eyes.
"At first I noticed his lips were unusually red," Sarah recalled of the first day with the fever. "Then the blisters showed up all over his lips, on his hands, and down his legs the next day."
Sarah couldn't imagine how her son picked-up the virus.
"I didn't take him anywhere. He mostly stays at home. He's not around a whole lot of kids," she said.
Then she remembered taking Jay to the doctor for his 15-month check-up a few days earlier. She now believes Jay probably picked up the virus doctor's office, since Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is very contagious.
Most doctors will recommend parents give their child with Hand, Foot and Mouth disease acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce the fever and discomfort. Mouthwashes and sprays may lessen the oral irritation. Fluids are also suggested to prevent dehydration. For more information about Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, the Centers For Disease Control has a whole web page devoted to it.
However, acidic juices may irritate the mouth ulcers. Cold milk may sooth the oral discomfort. Sarah gave Jay lots of milk, which he gladly preferred above anything else.
Some physicians also recommend Benadryl to treat the itching. And tepid oatmeal baths and oatmeal lotion (Aveeno) can help soothe the skin irritation. All those treatments worked for little Jay, and then the moment of peace....when after all that anguish, he finally fell asleep!
Prevention of coxsackie virus infections is nearly impossible because it requires children to be extremely hygienic. Regularly cleaning items they contact, especially toys, pacifiers, and any items they may place in their mouths, may help. Hand washing, as usual, is the best prevention technique. Currently there's no vaccine for it.
Pregnant women should avoid contact with children (or adults) with Hand, Food and Mouth Disease, because some studies suggest that coxsackie virus may cause developmental and other defects in the fetus.