What is happening inside my child’s body? This infection is appropriately named because it causes a rash on the hands and feet and in the mouth. The rash consists of small blisters (1 to 2 millimeters) on a red base. The blisters do not itch, but they can be tender.
Coxsackie is the virus largely responsible for the dreaded hand-foot-mouth disease. Coxsackie is a member of a group of viruses known as the enteroviruses. Even though Coxsackie is by far the most common culprit here, other viruses in the same family have been known to cause a similar rash.
The blisters are especially tender in the mouth. As your child’s throat becomes increasingly sore, first eating solids and then drink¬ing liquids can become extremely painful. Some children cannot even swallow their saliva because it hurts too much. When a child is so uncomfortable that he can neither eat nor drink, he can become dehydrated.
Hand-foot-mouth is associated with fever, adding to the discomfort. The fever can run as high as 104°F.
The rash of hand-foot-mouth varies. In young children, it can spread up the legs to the thighs and diaper area. In these places, the rash is not made up of blisters, but rather of small, flat, red spots. Although the rash almost never itches, when it is in the dia¬per area, it can cause discomfort.
It is important to know that despite its name, hand-foot-mouth does not always cause a rash in all three places. In fact, in mild cases, there may be only a blister or two in one of the three areas and nothing else.
Coxsackie is extremely contagious. It is passed through saliva and can live on toys, doorknobs, and other surfaces for up to two weeks. For this reason, school outbreaks are not uncommon. The incubation period is 3 to 7 days. This means that if your child is going to get Coxsackie virus, you will begin to notice symptoms within a week of exposure. The rash itself usually lasts 7 to 10 days.
Although Coxsackie can appear anytime during the year, it is most common in the summer and fall.
Theoretically, once a child has had hand-foot-mouth, he shouldn’t get it again. However, because the disease can be caused by more than one type of enterovirus, it is possible to pick up different enteroviruses and to get hand-foot-mouth more than once.