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Herpangina is a viral infection caused by a group of common viruses called enteroviruses. It causes small blister-like bumps or ulcers to form on the throat and roof of the mouth.
Although it’s a common viral infection in children, herpangina can occur in any age group. The disease is highly contagious and can rapidly spread through areas where children are in close contact with other children, like daycare centers and schools.
Herpangina is related to hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD). The same virus causes the two diseases, resulting in similar symptoms and sores. The main difference is that the sores only occur in the mouth with herpangina.
Yes. However, herpangina is less common in adults than in younger children. Herpangina typically occurs in children younger than age 10. But cases have still been reported in adolescents and young adults.1
Newborns, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women can develop a more severe form of the disease. Call your healthcare provider or your child’s healthcare provider immediately if you suspect herpangina in one of these high-risk groups.
Twenty-two different enteroviruses can cause herpangina. Symptoms vary depending on the subtype of enterovirus causing the infection.
Symptoms usually appear within 3 to 5 days after the initial infection. Common herpangina symptoms include:
Young children may be fussy and uninterested in feeding. Older children, adolescents, and adults might experience headaches or back pain. Some people also experience dehydration and abdominal pain.
Severe symptoms of herpangina may include:
Herpangina symptoms, including mouth sores, typically disappear in 1 to 7 days. Call your doctor if your or your child’s symptoms last longer than a week.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease and herpangina are two different conditions, but they share similarities.
Similarities between herpangina and hand, foot, and mouth disease include:
The most obvious difference between herpangina and hand, foot, and mouth disease is where the sores appear:
Herpangina is a viral infection that can be caused by 22 different enteroviruses. The most common virus subtypes found in herpangina infections include:1
Less common viruses include echovirus, adenovirus, and herpes simplex virus.
Yes. The viruses that cause herpangina are highly contagious. They can easily spread through:
Humans are the only known carriers of these viruses. But they can survive outside the body for an extended amount of time.
The time between exposure to the virus and symptom development (incubation period) is about 3 to 5 days. People are contagious during incubation and 3 to 8 weeks after.
Your healthcare provider will diagnose herpangina with a physical examination and review of your symptoms and medical history.
Tests usually aren't necessary because the sores that develop are unique to herpangina. A physical exam is typically all your doctor needs to confirm the diagnosis.
Herpangina treatment focuses on relieving symptoms with good oral hygiene and home care.
Antibiotics and antiviral drugs don’t effectively treat herpangina. After your child recovers, they’ll have natural immunity to the virus.
Depending on your child's age and general health, your doctor may recommend the following home remedies to ease symptoms:
Herpangina is generally a mild condition. Dehydration is a common complication in children who refuse food and fluids due to painful herpangina sores.
Some viruses that cause herpangina, such as enterovirus 71, can lead to serious complications. These complications include:
Enterovirus 71 can also cause severe symptoms in adults with hand, foot, and mouth disease.
Pregnant women who suspect a herpangina infection should contact their healthcare provider.
Research shows that herpangina increases the risk of pregnancy complications, including:6
Herpangina is usually a mild disease that resolves in less than 10 days with proper home care.
Children who are sick with herpangina will likely experience mouth pain, a high fever, and a sore throat. Even if they don’t feel like eating or drinking, make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
Herpangina can cause severe symptoms in newborns, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems. Seek immediate medical care in these cases.
Herpangina sores on the mouth and throat can make eating and drinking difficult. Many children experience a loss of appetite due to pain when swallowing.
However, it’s essential to maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Popsicles, ice cream, and soft, bland foods can help soothe discomfort.
Drink plenty of water. Cold milk and electrolyte drinks are also good.
Avoid hot drinks and acidic beverages like orange juice, as these irritate sores. Also, avoid eating spicy, salty, or fried foods.
Things you can do to prevent the spread of viruses that cause herpangina include:
Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water, especially after coughing, sneezing, or changing a diaper.
Research shows that proper handwashing by children and their adult caregivers significantly protects against enterovirus 71.7 This virus is most likely to cause severe symptoms in herpangina and hand, foot, and mouth disease.
Sanitize and disinfect high-touch surfaces and objects. Viruses that cause herpangina can stay alive for a long time on surfaces.
Keep your child home from school if they have herpangina. This disease tends to spread quickly through schools and daycare centers.
You should also stay home if you or someone in your household has herpangina. You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms (viral shedding).
Herpangina is a common illness in young children, especially those who attend schools and daycare centers. The disease is most prevalent in the summer and fall.1
Adolescents and adults rarely get herpangina. It also affects both genders equally.
Herpangina causes painful sores in the mouth and throat. Call your healthcare provider if the sores don’t go away after a week.
Also, call your doctor if you or your child has signs of dehydration, including dark urine, dry mouth, and dizziness.
Herpangina usually isn’t a serious medical condition. But it can be dangerous for certain groups, including pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and children under 3.
Call your doctor immediately if you or your child is in one of these groups and has been exposed to herpangina.
People with herpangina are contagious for 3 to 8 weeks after the initial infection. This includes the virus’s incubation period (about 3 to 5 days before symptoms appear).
Additionally, people who don’t show symptoms but have been exposed to herpangina can spread the disease.
Herpangina is a viral illness that primarily affects children younger than 10 years old. However, older children, adolescents, and young adults can also get this disease.
Early clinical features of herpangina include fever, sore throat, and difficulty swallowing. Blister-like bumps appear on the mouth and throat a day or two later. These mouth sores can be painful, causing difficulty swallowing and reduced appetite.
Herpangina is highly contagious and spreads through fecal matter, saliva, and other bodily fluids. Proper handwashing has been shown to reduce the spread of the virus.
A healthcare provider can diagnose herpangina with a physical examination. Medications cannot kill the viruses that cause herpangina, but home remedies can relieve pain. Drinking plenty of water is essential as dehydration is a common complication of herpangina.
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