Coxsackie Virus in Adults – Coxsackie virus is a contagious virus that commonly causes what we know as Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD). This typically occurs in children, but an adult can come down with it too. Especially if immune suppressed from autoimmune disease due to flares or medication.
The Coxsackie virus belongs to a group of enteroviruses with the most common one causing Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease being the coxsackievirus A16 (1). The illness is most commonly spread by person to person contact which is why it is commonly seen in children. It can be spread through saliva, nasal secretions, fluid from the blisters, and respiratory droplets (1).
Symptoms of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (1, 2)
- Sore throat
- Painful, red, blisters or lesions on the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks
- A red rash, for some, itchy, but sometimes with blistering, on the palms, soles and sometimes the buttocks (especially with children)
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling lethargic
Diagnosis by a doctor usually involves examining the blisters and rashes, an explanation of other symptoms, and could include a throat swab or stool sample to check for the virus.
Adults get HFMD more often than you think. It easy to contract it if exposed to children who have it. The first signs of disease are fever, reduced appetite, sore throat, and feeling tired (3). However, the tell-tale signs of the disease (those glorious pink dots and blisters) can sometimes go unnoticed in adults who are generally well.
How to Treat Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
The good news is that the Coxsackie virus is typically not serious in children or adults (4). HFMD will last approximately 7-10 days and usually medical treatment is not needed. Some ways to reduce symptoms are:
- utilizing fever reducers
- intaking plenty of fluids
- incorporating a numbing mouthwash to help with mouth and throat sores
- avoiding hot and spicy foods
It is important to note that the virus can be transmitted for several days to even weeks after you’ve been exposed. Exercise caution when you have it and practice good hygiene. Avoid close contact with others until you know it is safe to do so.
A Personal Experience with HFMD as an Adult
Back in 2011, I was experiencing a really bad flare of my Crohn’s Disease. I was in college at the time and it was soccer season. A girl on the team wasn’t feeling great and I brought her to urgent care. They assumed she had strep throat, which is no big deal for a college student, and we went on our with our life.
A week or so later, I felt awful. I had an extremely high fever, sore throat, zero appetite and I noticed sores all throughout my mouth. It wasn’t uncommon for me to get sores in my mouth with my Crohn’s, but these were different. I ended up in the hospital.
Once hooked up to fluids since I was so dehydrated I couldn’t give a urine sample, the sores were getting worse. It got to the point where my entire mouth, tongue and lips were completely swollen and blistering. It was awful. They took a throat culture and it came back that I had Coxsackie virus…HFMD. I was in shock because I didn’t think an adult could get HFMD. But, I also started to put things together…
The girl on my team with strep throat…her much younger sister had HFMD which is most likely what she had rather than strep. Because I was in close contact with her, I got it, and being in the heat of a bad Crohn’s flare and on meds I was extremely immune suppressed. It made sense.
All the doctor could do for me at the time was give me a numbing mouthwash which helped, but man, I don’t know how little children deal! My symptoms cleared in about 2 weeks but I kept getting bouts of the mouth blisters that I couldn’t kick. It was probably a solid month or so until I felt a little better.
Yes, adults can contract HFMD. Know the signs and symptoms and be smart if you contract it. Understand that this simple virus can wreak havoc on a body that is also fighting autoimmune disease. Though we may be a higher risk for these silly little viruses, we can treat them and make it through!