Caused by the Coxsackie virus, herpangina is a common childhood illness that affects small children between three and ten years. However, adults and teenagers may also get it. Herpangina causes sores in the mouth and is highly contagious. Typically, children get exposed to the virus at daycare or school. The infections are most prevalent in the fall and summer. Children residing in tropical countries may be at risk of developing herpangina all year around.
Typically, when you have herpangina, you can anticipate a mild illness. But sometimes symptoms may be severe, resulting in central nervous system complications, lung and heart failure, or death. Dehydration is a common complication, but please know it is easily treated, provided you detect it soon enough.
When pregnant women are infected with herpangina, they will have a preterm delivery of the infant or produce an infant, small for gestational age or with low birth weight. Once infected, you will not have symptoms for three to five days as the virus incubates or grows, but you can be contagious without knowing you have herpangina.
Individuals suffering from herpangina may exhibit one or multiple symptoms, as mentioned below, with varying degrees of severity:
- Throat pain
- Painful sores in the throat and mouth, similar blisters may appear in the buttocks, hands, or feet
- Pain when swallowing or difficulty swallowing
- Reduced appetite
- Abdominal pain
Sometimes the enterovirus infection infects the central nervous system, resulting in the following symptoms:
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty breathing
- Neck stiffness
Usually, group A coxsackievirus causes herpangina, but group B coxsackieviruses, echovirus, or enterovirus 71, may also cause it. Infections from these viruses are very contagious, and the virus can transmit easily between one child and another. They usually spread through droplets from coughs or sneezes or contact with fecal matter. Handwashing can lower the risk of virus sharing. Once the child gets infected with herpangina, they develop an immunity to the virus, but they may be infected by other viral strains that cause this illness.
You cannot treat the viruses with antibiotics, and no antiviral treatments are available for the virus that causes herpangina. The treatment aims to manage symptoms and reduce discomfort until the signs stop. Typically, this will take around seven to ten days. However, people may opt for prescriptions to relieve pain in the throat and mouth, headache, and fever. Therefore, you must pick treatment options suitable for children.
Other treatment options recommended by doctors include:
- Mouth rinse with warm water and salt solution can help overcome throat and mouth pain. You can repeat it as often as required.
- Topical gels and creams to get relief from throat and mouth pain. Speak to your doctor and only pick age-appropriate products.
- Some foods irritate the throat and cause mouth ulcers, such as citrus, salty, fried, or hot foods. Non-citrus fruits like bananas, soft foods, dairy, and vegetables can be good alternatives when fighting the herpangina infection.
- Dehydration is a potential herpangina complication. Avoid fruit juices and hot drinks as they aggravate throat and mouth pain. Instead, choose non-citrus frozen popsicles or fluids to get relief.
However, if the symptoms do not improve within seven days, new symptoms show, or symptoms aggravate, you must seek urgent medical intervention.
Prevention is better than cure. So, you can also take measures to avoid getting the virus. Some effective preventive measures include:
- Staying home when your child feels sick
- Cover your nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing, immediately followed by washing your hands.
- Disinfecting or sanitizing highly touched objects and surfaces.
- Practicing good hygiene, like washing your hands with water and soap. The virus can be shed in stool.
Herpangina is usually a self-limiting and mild disease that goes away independently. However, one must follow the abovementioned prevention tips for a smooth recovery.