Hand Foot and Mouth: Bug of the Week

by |  May 27th, 2015


Hand Foot and Mouth.

This is the bug of the week! The official name of the virus causing this unpleasant malady is Coxsackievirus.

So what is it? Hand foot and mouth (coxsackievirus) is a very common virus that makes its appearance every spring and summer. It is spread through saliva, so little kids who like to put toys in their mouths or touch things and then put their fingers or thumbs in their mouths are the most susceptible. Luckily, most adults are immune.

While the name sounds scary, the disease is not. It causes a sore throat with ulcers (like canker sores) scattered in the back of the throat or on the tongue. Some children also get a rash on the hands, feet, and sometimes even around the anus. The rash may look like tiny flat, red dots. Or, there may be small blisters that look like ant bites. The rash around the anus may have a raised, pimply appearance. Perhaps it should be called hand, foot, mouth, and hiney. And, kids may spike a fever at the beginning of the infection as they do with most viral illnesses.

You might worry when this infection shows up because fever is often the only obvious sign of illness (unless you look in the back of your child’s throat with a flashlight or your child has a rash). If you can’t tell what is going on when your child is feverish, it is always a good idea to check in with your child’s doc.

Like other viruses, there is no medication to make the infection go away any sooner. But, there are a few things you can do to comfort your child while he is going through the illness.


  1. Pain medication: Acetaminophen and ibuprofen (if your child is over six months old) are effective for both pain and the initial fever associated with the illness.
  2. Avoid citrus and salt: If you are prone to canker sores, you know that having a glass of orange juice or lemonade is incredibly painful. Stick to non-citrus fruits and fruit juices during this illness.
  3. Cold things feel good: Your child may not want to eat very much when his throat hurts—and that can last for up to a week. Depending on the age of your child, you may want to try frozen popsicles, smoothies (without citrus fruit), or even a milkshake or two.
  4. Home remedy: Mix liquid Benadryl and liquid Maalox that can temporarily coat the ulcers and provide relief for 30 minutes. Use before mealtime if your child is really suffering. Take a teaspoon of each and mix them together. Then, give your child a small volume (about 1cc or 1/4 tsp) of the mixture before a meal. An older child can gargle with it, but it’s okay for little kids over six months of age to just swallow it.
  5. Prescription mouthwash: Your doc can prescribe a concoction that includes topical lidocaine, if your child is beyond miserable (but that is rare with this illness).

411 Pediatrics


Dr. Ari Brown is a pediatrician and a mom. Dr. Brown is Board Certified and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She has been in private practice for over 20 years. Her passion to advocate for children and educate families extends beyond the office setting. She is the co-author the bestselling "411" parenting book series including Expecting 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for your Pregnancy, Baby 411, and Toddler 411. Dr. Brown has received several professional awards including the Ralph Feigin, MD Award for Professional Excellence, the prestigious Profiles in Power Award by the Austin Business Journal for her service to the community, Austin's Favorite Pediatrician by Austin Family Magazine, and Texas Monthly Magazine's Super Doctor.

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