Common Illnesses: Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (Coxsackie Virus)

Inevitably, children get sick.  Particularly in a school or day care setting, it’s pretty much guaranteed that at some point, your child will get sick.   When Madeline got sick for the first time recently, I turned to google to explain the virus outbreak at daycare and was surprised that there wasn’t a lot of information on the internet that wasn’t of an alarmist nature.  I turned to my copy of the New Basics, but I decided that it would be a good thing to tackle on the blog and help my fellow mommies (and daddies!) out there to hear real cases or this illness.

I had no idea what Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, also known as Coxsackie Virus, was.  To be honest, it sounds worse than it is.  Typically this virus is characterized by red bumps that start to appear on the feet, then spread to the hands, and eventually the mouth. This can be an issue because these sores hurt so it can lead to an unwillingness to eat. These bumps can also grow and blister, thankfully that didn’t happen to Madeline- but they look like this.

Another tell tale sign of this illness is a fever. Though that’s not really helpful in determining if your child is sick considering it’s a symptom for about 12 other common infant maladies.  You can also recognize common symptoms such as red watery eyes, and lethargy.

Once I figured out Madeline had this, my first call was to the pediatrician.  Given the fact that this disease is highly contagious (and apparently prevalent in spring/early summer), don’t be surprised if your pediatrician doesn’t want you to come into the office.  This is exactly what happened with us, they confirmed from her symptoms that she had this over the phone.  This is a virus, antibiotics will not cure it, you simply have to ride it out.  The best thing to do is to keep your child on a course of infant Tylenol.  Please be sure to consult your pediatrician for exact dosages as they can vary greatly based on your child’s age and weight.  It is also imperative that you keep your child as hydrated as possible.  For those of you who breastfeed, grab bottled water and snacks and park yourself somewhere, you’ll likely be there a while.

 The good news is, this disease passes rather quickly.  It typically takes about three days to resolve itself.  In our case, Madeline was diagnosed on a Monday evening, it was rough as she cried and was inconsolable for many hours until she fell asleep. She spent most of Tuesday passed out until bedtime, she again spent Tuesday evening crying inconsolably for hours part her bedtime. She even woke up halfway through the night (i’m assuming when her Tylenol wore off) crying.  I can count the number of times she’s cried in her four and a half month life on one hand, so this was disturbing to me and extremely hard to hear.  All you can do is keep reassuring your baby that it will be okay and comfort them to the best of your ability.  By Wednesday, she seemed to be back to her happy self, with a little bit more fussiness than usual.  Though her fever had broken (which is the tell tale sign that they are no longer contagious), I kept her on Tylenol every four hours.  By the evening, she was less fussy and went to sleep easily and slept through the night.  Thursday morning she was back to her routine and back to daycare!

My advice to parents is: 1- Don’t panic. It’s very very hard to watch your child sick or suffer, but the calmer you are, the more calm they will be.  You have to be able to care for them. 2- Call your pediatrician.  You should always trust their diagnosis and opinion over the internet/others.  3- Hang in there, you will get through this. I promise. 4- don’t lose sight of the fact that you can catch this from your child, I did! Take care of yourself too, you have to be healthy to care for your baby!

Best of luck to those of you fighting this off with your little ones!

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