Parental guidance: Coxsackie virus facts

A file photo of a doctor with patient.

A file photo of a doctor with patient. (Credit: iStock)

Q. What is Coxsackie virus? I've heard it spreads in swimming pools; how can I prevent my child from catching it?

A. "The swimming pool thing is a bit of a myth," says Dr. Sunil Sood, director of pediatrics at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore and attending physician in infectious diseases at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park. Coxsackie peaks in summer, which may be why people associate it with pools, he says. "People who don't swim or go anywhere near pools get it," Sood says. "You probably get it everywhere."

The virus most frequently manifests itself in babies and toddlers, causing fever, diarrhea and painful blisters in the mouth. The child also may get a rash on the palms of hands or soles of feet; Coxsackie is often called hand, foot and mouth disease because of that, but it shouldn't be confused with the hoof and mouth disease of cattle. It was named Coxsackie after the town near Albany where it was discovered.

There's no way to prevent Coxsackie and no vaccine. Your best bet is to practice hand-washing hygiene because the virus spreads through fecal-oral contamination, Sood says.

The illness usually lasts about a week. Children may not want to eat or drink for a couple of days due to the mouth sores; parents can try foods such as Popsicles that will numb the mouth and get fluid into the child. Coxsackie can, in rare cases, cause more serious issues, but usually it's "very benign," Sood says. "Nothing to panic about."

Do you have a parental guidance question? If so, email Beth.Whitehouse@newsday.com.

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